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SXSW 2016: Brands and Influencers Take The Helm

Since its inception, SXSW Interactive has been a hub enlightening people on new ideas and innovations year after year. Now celebrating 30 years, SXSW has acted as a launch pad for Twitter, Foursquare and Meerkat. Here is a look at what the 30-year anniversary edition brought.

 

Experiential Branding

This year’s event compelled brands to go full-throttle in activating the attendees by offering experiences we’ve never seen before. Riding its success with Mr. Robot, USA Network made a return to SXSW bringing an actual piece of the show with them. Fans were able to ride a 100-foot Ferris wheel and hangout in an abandoned theme park, just like the one they’ve seen on the show. Talk about bringing a series into actual life.

Warner Bros. were not to be outdone as they transformed a local Austin tattoo shop into Harley Quinn’s Tattoo Parlor – themed after a character from the upcoming film Suicide Squad. Here attendees could get fake or real tattoos identical to those worn by the film’s characters.

 

Virtual Reality

SXSW further strengthened the claim that this is the year VR truly takes a leap. Anheuser-Busch used virtual reality to bring their Budweiser brewery to Austin. A-B set up a Budweiser beer garage where everyone could help themselves to unlimited amounts of Budweiser. The beer enthusiasts were also able to experience a full tour of the Budweiser brewery through an interactive VR session that included the sights, sounds and even scent of the brewery. The sessions were finalized with a taste of a freshly brewed Budweiser.

VR experiences was everywhere to be found, offered by brands like Samsung, McDonald’s and even NASA was there to show off their capabilities. Together with MIT Space Systems Lab, NASA is working on a free virtual reality experience of Mars that will be released on Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard, Samsung VR Gear, as well as for iPhone and Android.

 

Big Time Keynotes

Taking time off what probably is the busiest schedule in the US (if not the world), President Barack Obama stopped by SXSW to give a 1-hour long keynote. In contrast with joking about how the Affordable Care Act website launch was a failure, the President urged the audience, and the tech industry to work closer in conjunction with the US government to improve government ailments such as outdated IT infrastructures and voting processes. Obama’s overarching message was to encourage innovative minds to work together to make an impact in their communities and not always identify profit as the sole motivation to develop new exciting tech. In case you missed it, have a look.

 

 

 

Photo Source: Adam Bartlett

 


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CES 2016: The Connected Era Continues As This Year’s Event Highlights Smart Cars, Wearables and 360 Video


In and Out of Home Connectivity

Brands were eager to show off their latest smart product innovations. Options were plentiful, from refrigerators to light bulbs to thermostats. The market for smart home products continues to grow and according to Parks Associates smart home monitoring and control systems are installed in more than 10% of U.S. households. 45% of U.S. households either own some smart home technology or plan to invest in it in 2016.

Not only are consumers embracing in-home smart products but the adoption for smart products out-of-home is finding its footing. The automotive industry stole the spotlight at this year’s show with General Motors’ recent Lyft investment of $500 million, revealing a long-term goal of creating an infrastructure of self-driving taxis. Drivers are intrigued by the idea of fully automated vehicles as a study by Autotrader shows that 52% of respondents would be comfortable riding or driving in a vehicle with self-driving technology. The same study also showcased an interest in interactive dashboards as 46% say they would pay up to $1,500 for an interactive dashboard. However, the challenge for auto brands will be to focus on connectivity and device integration as 57% seek better integration for smartphones with generic systems such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

 

Wearables

The Consumer Electronics Association anticipates the wearable tech industry to grow 64% over the next three years with 245 million devices reaching $25 billion in sales. Marketers now understand that the wearable market is set to deliver a new source of endless data. Considering the long-awaited progression of mobile monitoring and tracking marketers will start to demand increasingly seamless capabilities for breaking down wearable data. Fitbit took one step in the direction of combining features from 2 different wearable products by introducing Fitbit Blaze. The device is branded as a smart fitness watch. It still remains to be seen if the wearable market can achieve an automated environment where unconscious behavior steers the utilization of wearable products.

 

Virtual Reality

The annual show was a prime example that VR is finally maturing into a game that now includes more than just a few players. TrendForce predicts that 14 million virtual-reality devices will be sold worldwide in 2016. High production costs and poor ROI projections have for years made marketers refrain from indulging in the virtual reality mania. As production technology evolves the production cost is reducing and the new options for 360 video has led to increased consumer interest in VR devices.

Nikon and GoPro are both developing new ways for consumers to capture their own 360-degree content. Content that they now can place on platforms such as YouTube and Facebook thanks to their recent installments. By enabling consumers to become content creators, the VR and 360 video industry has taken ground breaking steps in the proper direction. As the profit potential becomes much clearer brands will start to become less hesitant to use VR in new initiatives that can prove to be remarkably rewarding and exhilarating.

 

User-Generated Video Is Now The Norm

During his keynote YouTube’s Robert Kyncl stated that digital will make up 75% of total video viewing by 2020. During this statement a numerous amount of people were using vertical video platforms such as Periscope and Snapchat to streamline his message real-time to their respective audience. Companies like Twitter, Facebook and Yahoo all attended meetings with vertical video to show during CES. Throughout the event it was apparent that people are living their lives mobile-first and so were the brands showcasing their products. Live-streaming and vertical video is in full adoption mode, and it is controlling how we encode, decode and interpret messages around the clock daily.

 

 

Photo Source: Andrés Nieto Porras