Cool Technologies from SxSW Interactive 2016


The annual SxSW Interactive Festival in Austin routinely makes the list of “must-attend” events in the marketing and technology industries, and for good reason: this is the place where breakthrough ideas get launched and the digerati share their best thinking. The 2016 event, which concluded March 15, was no exception. Here are a few of the bold ideas and technologies that captured the imagination of attendees:

Virtual reality: virtual reality made its stamp all over SxSW. The topic was popular on SxSW panels, including sessions on virtual football and virtual cinema. But the virtual reality installations attracted the most buzz. At the McDonald’s lounge, attendees could step inside a virtual Happy Meal box and paint artwork. McDonald’s printed attendees’ creations in real time. Meanwhile, Samsung brought virtual reality to attendees. Attendees who tweeted #VRonDemand could have a Samsung Gear VR experience brought to their location. From there, attendees using the gear could enjoy virtual reality experiences such as a virtual thrill ride — available also at Samsung Studio. The virtual experience has obvious applications at events by blending the offline and online worlds to create immersive environments.

Sony’s Interactive Tabletop: Imagine turning any surface into a touch screen for controlling light projections and interacting with just a few swipes of your fingertips. This is what Sony has in mind with its prototype Interactive Tabletop, a prototype that Sony unveiled at SxSW. The Interactive Tabletop incorporates depth and motion sensors to gather data on the movements of a user’s hand. That information is applied to the light being projected on a flat surface, enabling you to move the images around a table or wall — which can be a fun way for event attendees to share information with each other visually, ranging from check-ins to audience participation during presentations.

As Fast Company noted, the Sony Interactive Tabletop “does bode well for a future where we can interact with light-projected holograms as easily as we interact with physical objects today.”

The Interactive Tabletop technology also recognizes objects that you may place on or alongside a surface. During the demo at SxSW, the solution recognized pictures in a book, captured them, and positioned them on the table. The user could then drag the images around the surface of the Interactive Tabletop.

 Jibo at the SxSW Interactive 2016 Robot Ranch: Among the more entertaining activities at SxSW was Robot Ranch. One of the most popular attractions was Jibo, a robot that interacts socially by detecting voice, gestures and expressions. Jibo’s diminutive size (less than 12 inches tall) belies his functionality, as he’s been designed by developers to be a useful companion for your household. Jibo will suggest an umbrella if there’s rain in the forecast, and he can order pizza through an Internet connection when you give the word. This kind of technology can make even management of routine functions at events more immersive and fun — not to mention just cool.

 Top Apps to Watch: A few new apps and one mainstay were featured at SxSW. 

  • KnowMe: Create short video clips using content from your camera roll, then add your voice or other audio. You can share them with those in the app’s community or browse other user videos by interest.


  •  Cola Messenger: Messaging is easier and more efficient with Cola Messenger, which incorporates bubbles that you can interact with to take action from a message. Add a ToDo, share your location or schedule a meeting from the sender’s text.


  • Hum On!: an app that allows just about anyone to score, arrange, and share hummed melodies in minutes.

 SxSW Interactive 2016 once again showed how the right technology in the right context can enrich an event, starting with SxSW itself. It won’t be long before you find these technologies enriching events you attend (already happening with virtual reality). What are some of the ideas or breakthrough technologies from SxSW that caught your attention? We’d like to hear your thoughts.

For a complimentary 30-minute consultation on how to build your brand and inspire an audience through events and communications, please contact Brian Duffy by calling 630.427.4235 or by emailing

Image source: SxSW.


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