This year’s iteration of South by Southwest Interactive has just wrapped. The last seven days boasted the usual mix of incredibly great open-bar parties, opportunistic networking interactions, idiotic marketing stunts and intriguing insights into upcoming developments from the world of tech.
GOOGLE HAS LEARNED FROM THE FAILURE OF GOOGLE GLASS
Back in January, Google announced its once-vaunted – but eventually much-derided – Google Glass experiment was over. At SXSW, Astro Teller, who is the company’s Captain of Moonshots (yes, that is his real name and job title) told attendees the key reason it failed was… Marketing. Teller says Google allowed too much information on the program to become public.
“I wanted to say to the world this is an early prototype of something we think is exciting,” he said at SXSW. “But we did things which encouraged people to think of it as finished product. We could have done a better job to stop that…”
He added that issues around privacy also contributed to its demise – the camera on the headset saw the product encouraged many businesses from banning GG on their premises.
DIGITAL COMMERCE START-UP RENT THE RUNWAY WANTS TO PUT UPS AND FEDEX OUT OF BUSINESS
The company’s CEO Jennifer Hyman impressed a big crowd at her panel “Defining the Next Generation Retail Experience.”
“We need to put UPS and FedEx out of business,” Ad Week reported her as saying. “The delivery [industry] needs to be completely ripped up and totally recreated.”
Rent The Runway, she said, boasts five million customers who are on average aged 30 and have a medium income of $100,000.
Ms Hyman also described the habit of pattern-recognition when it comes to start-up funding as “obscene” and called data “the most important aspect to personalized, competitive online retail.”
FLYING CARS MAY BECOME A REALITY
Widely reported online was the news company called AeroMobil said at SXSW it plans to put a flying vehicle on the market in 2017. An AeroMobil representative told Popular Science the price would be several hundreds of thousands of dollars, which they argue, is on par “with a combination of a sport aircraft and a supercar.”
BEING IMPLANTED WITH A CHIP COULD BECOME COMMONPLACE
Our phones, the theory goes, act as virtual trackers now anyway so why not use implantable sensors to help with everything from our medical health to helping monitor our sleep levels? Leslie Saxon from the Center for Body Computing at the University of Southern California put it succinctly: “I think society now is willing to give away anything for efficiency.”
AS TWITTER WAS TO SXSW IN 2007, MEERKAT WAS TO SXSW IN 2015
It’s been a while since a social media app had a genuine breakout moment at SXSW. This year however, the live-streaming app Meerkat went large. The Verge reported almost every celebrity at SXSW from Jimmy Fallon to Julia Louis-Dreyfus as incessant Meerkaters. Festival-goers used it to stream concerts, panels and pedicab rides but mostly just to annoy their friends.
THE CO-FOUNDER OF SIRIUS THINKS CLONES WILL BE A THING IN OUR LIFETIME
One of the most buzzed about keynote speakers was from co-founder of SiriusXM Radio Martine Rothblatt, who presented a talk musing on the possibility of mind clones. That is, “the idea humans can transcend software and potentially live forever.”
Ms Rothblatt said the next step forward may be via clones of ourselves that are able to think independently and pretty much co-exist with us.
“They will be able to argue with us, and live indefinitely.”
Although on paper it seems like something of a pipe dream, Rothblatt told USA Today she created a lifelike robotic replica of her wife Bina. The robot was able to answer questions and replied using the ‘real’ Bina’s characteristics and mannerisms. Hmmm.
ADVERTISING HAS A LOT TO ANSWER FOR
There was something of a recurring theme in Austin this year regarding the notion that endless stimulation from mobile apps, social media and multitasking has taken its toll on how consumers think. “Basically our brains are going backwards in terms of memory, ability to pay attention and ability for original thought,” ad guru Douglas Nicol said.
According to the US Library of Medicine, the average American’s transient attention span has decreased from 12 seconds in 2000 to just 8 seconds 2013.
The key takeaway: don’t overcomplicate your message.
HOOTSUITE FILLED A GIANT OWL BIKEMOBILE WITH RANDOM PEOPLE
Who rode it around Austin drinking beer.
TINDER TRICKED ITS USERS
On Saturday night at the conference, Tinder users who interacted with a brunette named ‘Ava’ were taken aback when, after a brief exchange of pleasantries, they were informed ‘Ava’ was merely a marketing stunt for the upcoming movie Ex Machina. Ouch.
JIMMY KIMMEL HAS 700 APPS ON HIS PHONE
Here is proof.