Despite faint grumbles that SXSW Interactive has lost its sheen, there is still plenty to be excited about at the event this year. For those heading to Austin’s annual tech jamboree or watching Tweetfest from home, here are a some of the themes to watch out for.
Southbites, foodies' delight.
Tacos, BBQ and food trucks are some of the great perks of traveling to Austin for SXSW. This year, food tech has made it on to the program menu, with the first "Southbites" track. Devotees of New York restaurant group Momofuku need not forego their crack pie; Founder David Chang will be discussing how he is uniting tech and food.
An activation from BBH New York also taps into the foodie theme. The agency is staging a food picture strike, to raise awareness about 49 million Americans suffering from food insecurity. At the festival, BBH will distribute #Foodpicstrike napkins near food trucks and other locations, calling on festival-goers to take a picture of the napkin —rather than the food they are eating — to share on Instagram.
Internet of things and privacy.
Judging by CES International and Mobile World Congress, the Internet of Things will be a key theme at SXSW this year. But hopefully the conversation will move beyond design specs and the well-worn example of the connected fridge.
In the wake of the NSA revelations, privacy and security dominated the debate at SXSW last year, tackled by Google chairman Eric Schmidt, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden during their keynotes.
While excitement around net neutrality, or buzz about "The Dress" might lift spirits this year, expect the debate over privacy to continue, particularly as it relates to the IoT and the unprecedented amount of personal data this movement will create. Check out Rethinking Privacy in the Internet of Things.
The fashion crowd hits Austin.
SXSW doesn’t exactly attract the most sartorially aware crowd, but it might be time to ditch those hoodies because fashion is going to be big at SXSW this year. While the growth of wearables has meant fashion tech’s featured on the agenda for the past few years, there's a huge array of programming about it this year.
With major tech companies failing, for the most part, to make wearables look good, it will be interesting to hear how fashion brands' designers are edging into the tech space. It is safe to say there will be a lot of conversation around the newly unveiled Apple Watch, too.
As well as wearables, there are plenty of talks on retail innovation, 3D printing, bio-material technology, and startups in the space. Supermodel Karlie Kloss will also be gracing the Convention Center for a conversation with Facebook’s Sara Wilson about how tech took over Fashion Week.
Artificial Intelligence, automation and the self.
SXSW is wheeling out the robots, with its first-ever petting zoo. Beyond the obvious novelty, selfie value, the zoo’s organizer, Field Innovation Technologies, aims to showcase how the bots can help serve in disasters and crises.
Worried a robot will take your job? Associated Press managing editor Lou Ferrara will be talking about why the news service decided to automate content, the impact of automation on the news business, and how journalists have adapted to the change. With the rise of native advertising dovetailing with programmatic’s upward trajectory, this talk could provide interesting insights for marketers in the content space.
In her keynote, Martine Rothblatt, CEO of United Therapeutics, will talk about the ways in which technology can help extend human life, in what looks to be a fascinating discussion on artificial intelligence and identity.