March 24, 2017

6 Trending Topics at SXSW

by Christie Pitts and Paul Heitlinger

It’s a wrap for another eventful SXSW, where 72,000 people gathered in Austin, Texas for plenty of networking, a hands-on look at new innovations, and thoughtful discussions on what lies ahead in all things tech, film, and music. We hosted our third annual cocktail reception in partnership with AdTheorent, which featured a mixed reality activation by 8i and a silent disco powered by SubPac

Verizon Ventures and a few of our portfolio companies, including Glympse, were also on the ground attending various sessions and gathering insights. These are the six trends that caught our attention:

1. Customized eSports Experiences

eSports continues to garner investment interest and not just in the games itself. Tangential enterprises such as venues and services for eSports are huge opportunities that are waiting to be tapped by investors (Click to Tweet). Purpose-built eSports venues where you can build a custom venue catered to eSports fan — down to the gaming arena, training facility, observation rooms, and theaters — can enhance the entertainment experience for fans.

2. Will AI Make Humans More Productive?

Several panel discussions focused on bots, machine learning, and what the future of artificial intelligence means for jobs and society. One panel in particular that had people buzzing was “Augmented Intelligence: The Next-Gen AI,” which focused on how AI will be used in the near future to supplement human actions, ultimately making humans more productive than they would be otherwise.

3. Wearables Gets Practical

There was definite excitement around the evolution of wearable technologies and how the “Internet of Clothing” can improve our lives. Google and Levi’s showcased the Project Jacquard jacket, which is made of conductive fibers that are woven into fabric and can turn objects (like clothing or furniture) into interactive surfaces. In this case, the left cuff on the Levi’s jacket sleeve can detect touch and data is transmitted to your smartphone to control apps. We also saw wearable tech moving into verticals like health. For instance, Litmus Health is a startup that collects biometric data from wearable technology to enhance results in medical trials, creating increased safety and accuracy of patient treatment. It’s changing the way that we think about personalized experiences, as well as how we design and consider rich user interactions.

4. Future of Identity

“The Future of You: Identity Tomorrow” panel was fascinating and explored how in the near term, we will be able to register for federally recognized digital identities. When enough people, agencies and companies adopt this system, we’ll see a future where there is no need for digital passwords and identity fraud becomes a thing of the past. While compelling, this raises questions about what constitutes identity, the value of online anonymity, and threats in cybersecurity.

5. VR Sees More Dimension

VR continues to mature as experiences become more immersive (Click to Tweet). Sony’s Future Lab division provided a multi-person experience where participants could interact with each other in a virtual environment via untethered VR. They could play tag in VR and get the perspectives of other participants in real time, in their field of view. This reinforces how VR can be a social experience where people can interact in large play spaces and custom built apps can enable participants to play together or separately. There was plenty of conversation around real-world applications of VR, like virtual tourism, but the challenge remains of how VR can be applied to everyday life and truly drive change in our society.

6. New Forms of Media & Advertising

New media models like distributed content and native advertising continue to disrupt the industry; however, the space will continue to evolve. This space will continue to quickly evolve. Brands, publishers and media companies will work together with social platforms and new content mediums, like VR and OTT, in order to reach their target audiences.

Tags: Andrew Der , SXSW , Virtual Reality , Wearables , eSports , AI , Media , content , event recap