As the dust settles in Austin, let's take a trip from A to Z to review what made this year's SXSW unforgettable. From cutting-edge technology to emerging entertainment trends, SXSW 2023 was a 10-day extravaganza of ideas, innovation, and creativity.
AI is the hot topic right now; as you can imagine it was everywhere at the festival. A highlight in this space was Jonah Peretti from Buzzfeed discussing The AI-Powered Future of Creativity (as bonus you can listen back here). A number of major brands at SXSW, from giants like Microsoft to small startups, revealed how their use of AI in the near future revolves around hyper-personalization, automation, and data-driven decision-making. AI will let brands analyze vast amounts of data to identify consumer trends and preferences. This will drive innovation, streamline processes, and deliver value to both businesses and consumers.
Dressed in cool, calming colors, the Lush House included a wall of Lush products (such as bath bombs) where, after downloading the brand's app, visitors could scan a camera over a package-free product and have all the information that would usually be on packaging pop up. A Bath Bot, a speaker floating in a big basin of water, played music so you can now have a rave while soaking in the tub. There was also an AI fairy you could have a full conversation with on a screen.
The "Care Cafe" food truck offered coffee and doughnut holes---as well as condoms, feminine hygiene products, and more.
This was a first for Dolby as they launched Dolby House. They showcased a variety of installations celebrating the world's leading entertainers and creatives who are using Dolby technologies -- like Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos immersive audio -- to push the boundaries of entertainment. We got to experience one of Dolby's latest innovations, Dolby Atmos for cars, in a Mercedes-Benz top-of-the-line Maybach S-Class sedan, and get a "first listen" of Sonos Era 300, the brand's newest Dolby Atmos-enabled smart speaker, which was announced earlier this week.
Patagonia CEO Ryan Gellert, was interviewed by Katie Couric as part of the keynote event. Gellert said that the agriculture sector is "one of the most broken" when it comes to the environment. He said Patagonia wants to model new environmental stewardship. "I would love to see that happen. I think we could drive the biggest change in that space."
Late night bites, an immersive AR installation and Anderson .Paak. What's not to love? We enjoyed this experience. Layering back to the current After Dark campaign, fans could enter the kaleidoscopic tunnel before enjoying the performance from Anderson .Paak's vinyl spinning alter ego DJ Pee .Wee. A nice AR lens developed with Snapchat added engagement.
At a time when even players of casual mobile games (47%) are interested in having their favorite game turned into a TV show or movie, The Hollywood Reporter and a number of video game studios explored the increasing expectations to translate games beyond the traditional player experience into areas such as television, film and streaming.
Taking place at The Highball at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, fans could enjoy a fluorescent "Dragon's Brew" among the immersive wooden interior and of course, the Gelatinous Cube.
The Roku House was themed around Roku City---the streamer's default screensaver---with the activation meant to resemble the on-screen design.
Those attending the VIP opening on Friday night were greeted by "Alice in Wonderland" characters and shepherded into a Roku-branded beauty salon for the opportunity to get a makeover complete with stick-on face gems and purple heart-shaped glasses. Upstairs, Roku created a love lock bridge, where attendees were given locks to write on and affix to the bridge. A rooftop VIP party included sparkling purple drinks, purple cupcakes, and a purple Roku Diner, which took reservations for meals throughout the weekend.
It was difficult to attend a talk this year without at least one mention of the metaverse. We liked Starburst's take with their Juicyverse experience. Fans can create and share their own art.
K-pop's rise in the US has been driven by strategic social marketing, and this was not a miss at SXSW. Lucy is a four member boy band but unlike other K-pop groups, the members play different instruments and produce their own music. That's not uncommon in the K-pop world, but is refreshing to see. Adding to the distinctiveness of the band, one of their members, Yechan, plays the violin, making the sound of their music unique.
Paramount+'s lodge was designed to reflect the streamer's "mountain of entertainment" concept, with each level showcasing distinct themes. The first floor resembled a ski lodge, complete with leather chairs, a bar, and a "Grease"-themed car where visitors could don pink jackets like those worn by the Pink Ladies. Meanwhile, the top floor featured a photo opportunity with the Vince Lombardi Trophy and a chance to create your own unique piece of vinyl artwork. The rooftop bar was themed around "1923," the prequel to "Yellowstone."
Could the future of concerts mean we'll all be wearing VR headsets? Maybe not every gig, but Miro Shot were back at the festival this year with their VR concert experience.
Niantic and 8th Wall together want AR everywhere. With the power of 8th Wall's WebAR and Niantic's creative breadth, they came together at SXSW to highlight new ways to connect with audiences, engaging them in interactive experiences anywhere they are - all with no app required. The SXSW Niantic AR Garden featured the magic of AR through new games like NBA All World and beloved favorites like Ingress, powered by 8th Wall's Web AR technology.
OpenAI is one of the best known artificial intelligence companies making tools for the general public, including ChatGPT, an AI chatbot that is considered the fastest-growing application in history. Greg Brockman, OpenAI's co-founder, provided unique insights at SXSW into the future of AI and how it's going to improve society. Similar to how the smartphone revolutionized the world's access to the internet, AI is going to amplify nearly every aspect of our lives from work to entertainment and more. This all led to the announcement and release of ChatGPT4.
Amazon delivered in style as Hotel San Jose was transformed in to a variety of different spaces that let fans immerse themselves in the Prime Video Shows Daisy Jones & The Six, The Boys, Swarm, The Summer I Turned Pretty, The Power, Academy of Country Music Awards, I'm A Virgo, Harlem, and Carnival Row. Standout experiences included a collab with thrift store Goodfair where you could get a personalized denim jacket, custom tattoos and the many DJ's that took to the stage.
Long live the QR code. Austin was awash with QR code posters, with Lionsgate stealing the show with a simple experience for the new John Wick release. Fans scanned a QR code, and those who signed up got a text Monday morning directing them to Congress Avenue and Eighth Street for a chance at one of 20 tickets to a 5 p.m. screening of "John Wick: Chapter 4." Tickets were first come, first serve, and only available for five hours.
This was some simple fun especially if your name was Ryan. Not so much if you're a Bryan though!
Slack showcased the future of work with their immersive walkthrough experience. You could journey through an immersive installation to try new tools and features, and get a life-size look at channels, huddles, clips and app integrations. If you were looking to snap some post-worthy photos, this was the place for you.
A nice collab between Porsche and Transformers brought high spec race cars and a giant Optimus Prime to the streets of Austin. An AR experience created a gamified moment for fans to engage with Optimus Primal.
Real-Time engines such as Unreal and Unity are transforming how long-form and episodic animation is made, with entirely new creative opportunities for storytellers. Academy Award winner Director Osborne and Nexus Studio's Sarah Arruda discussed the immense benefits of adopting the technology, including character animation via digital puppetry, performance capture, and immediate rendering.
Studio Vimeo, one of the key SXSW sponsors, brought their cutting edge tech through demos of interactive video with real-life examples of how brands are adopting it. This included interactive touchpoints on videos that encourage viewers to engage more deeply with the content, and self-directed viewing experiences where users can choose their own journey as they watch.
The WB and IMGN collab So Satisfying House was a delight for all the senses. You can see a full video of the space here. For anyone who ever wanted to pop a giant pimple, this was the experience for you.
We went virtual at the XR exhibition including attending SoundWaves: A Metaverse Music Concert and we were virtually taken to Berlin by The District through a music-driven 3D world full of vibrant games and virtual live entertainment with photorealistic environments, various event spaces, and virtual music-creation tools from DJ equipment to samplers and more.
Camp YellowJackets transformed Fairmarket into key locations from the series. There was a recreation of the cabin, axe throwing, food that they swear was not people, the altar, and signature cocktails. Plenty of photo ops on display, lots of little nuggets about the series, DJs and more.
The good news continues as SXSW Sydney is around the corner. We can't wait to find out what it has in order. See you all down under!
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