Living with Technology: At SXSW fest, tech innovation shares the spotlight
Published 6:19 am, Wednesday, April 1, 2015
I attend my fair share of conferences, mainly ones based on technology.
In March, I attended one of the most interesting -- and fun -- conferences in a long time. It was the South by Southwest, or simply SXSW, in Austin, Texas.
SXSW started as a music conference and over the years has grown to include film, interactive, education and other areas.
I was impressed with the blending of the various interests and the attraction of a wide range of people with different talents, yet all seemingly wanting to change the world.
Some very inspiring people appeared at the interactive conference, including Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google. One of his points was that everyone should have Internet access. His vested interest in how this would benefit Google aside, the Internet can provide people with a way to communicate, learn and even make a living.
The conference presented 2015 SXSW Interactive Innovation Awards, and they went to some remarkable products. The contenders include security companies, 3D printing technology companies, a sprinkler company, an artist and more. The entire list can be seen at: http://sxsw.com/interactive/awards/interactive-awards.
One of my favorite areas was the "Robot Petting Zoo" (http://schedule.sxsw.com/2015/events/event_IAP43948). It was put on by a group called the Field Innovation Team that helps in disaster recovery. The companies showcased help with search and recovery, housing and even emotional assessment of people affected.
Inside the trade show, a variety of geographic areas were represented, some local business development areas in the U.S., and then countries that were represented. My favorite area was the Japan section where they had some of the coolest technology.
My personal favorite was the device that could levitate small foam balls with sound. See: https://youtu.be/V02AUxrmRVU. They also had programmable robots (http://youtu.be/9JcII3-mT3U) you could buy assembled for $1,000 or buy a kit for $500 and 3D print your own parts. The list goes on and on.
Along with the Interactive conference, the Music conference was quite compelling. There were typical conference sessions talking about some of the nuts and bolts of music such as licensing, getting representation and making money as a musician. These are far more complicated than the average listener would imagine.
But perhaps the most fun was the reported 1,200 bands that were in Austin for the SXSW conference.
Just about everywhere you went multiple bands were playing.
In the Austin Convention Center, there were halls dedicated to International music, a radio hall run by the Los Angeles NPR station KCRW, more.
Outside of the Convention Center, musicians filled the streets and venues. The street musicians, in particular, seemed to simply pop up on streets, and passing musicians would stop and join in. Here's one of my favorites, the Greasy Skillet Stompers. They just look like they're having fun: https://youtu.be/FMjsSCj_Qlo.
If you get a chance, I highly recommend attending SXSW. It's not only a great business opportunity, but it combines incredible talent and a perspective on our world that for me is unique.
Mark Mathias is a Westport resident and has worked in information technology for more than 30 years. His "Living With Technology" appears every other Friday. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org