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SXSW 2013: Wrap up of the world’s biggest interactive festival


SXSW 2013: Wrap up of the world’s biggest interactive festival


Real world utilities like 3D printing, community-funded hardware and Kickstarter projects. There were far fewer new social apps at SXSW this year but quite a few to help with your health, fitness and wellbeing. If the content and budget allocations from some of the world’s biggest influencers are anything to go by we’re also likely to see a re-emergence of the space race as projects like GoogleX, SpaceX and consumer-controlled flying drones make their mark on the world’s biggest interactive event of it’s kind.

Real-world utilities

OK, so I’ve mentioned GE’s Brilliant Brew coffee truck in a previous post, a software enhanced coffee machine robot that uses facial and image recognition to take a photo of your face or business card then ‘prints’ it onto the top of your coffee. But, the real standout in interactive manufacturing-based technology had to be Makerbot’s 3D printer. You may have heard of it a year back when they wee testing the 1.0 version to print Star Wars figurines, but this year the ‘The MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printer‘ enabled people to design a toy on an iPad app by choosing a few shapes, pinching, stretching, colouring etc (I made a dinosaur) then have it printed.


Chat about crowdsourced funding was rampant. Kickstarter success stories like Julie Uhrman who raised $8.6 million to get Ouya into production. Originally hoping to raise $900,000 to get the idea off-the-ground, the now much anticipated $99 (US) game console should launch this June.

Matthew Inman, creator of The Oatmeal also spoke, telling us about how he raises money for the National Wildlife Federation and a little over $1.3 million to start a museum dedicated to the works of inventor Nikola Tesla.

Venture capitalist and entrepreneur, Peter Thiel, who was one of the founding partners of PayPal and the first outside investor and director of Facebook gave insight into the mind of Zuckerburg, telling the story of the first time the company was offered $1 billion dollars to sell. At the time Zuckerburg was 22 years old and the company was paying $30 million dollars of annual staff wages. Thiel remembered it well. I’m sure you would. It’s not every day a deal worth a billion bucks is put on the table. In the history of the world only two other companies had ever been offered $1 billion dollars before to sell up (eBay and Google), so of course Thiel was most interested in discussing the offer and so called young Mark to discuss in a boardroom meeting at FB HQ.  “When Mark answered I remember him saying ‘It’s just a formality yeah? We’re obviously not going to sell? I don’t know what I’d do with the money, I’d probably just start another social media platform and I kind of like the one I’ve got”.

Blogs vs micro-blogging vs video 

Blogs? Well, I know you probably don’t want to hear this as you’re reading one, but according to SXSW founder and author Bruce Sterling’s closing remarks they’re nearly a thing of the past.

Bruce Sterling

In his politically and cyber-tool inspired address to a hall packed with the world’s leading creative technologists, Bruce ranted like the visionary he is, taking the stage in a hooded jumper and 3D-printed Bruce Sterling figurine ‘neck tie’ and joked about the exponential curve of technology: “30 years ago people used to think it’s amazing to have a fax machine… and now people think it’s amazing to still have a fax machine”.

Grumpy Cat

He also made the point that not one of the two-hundred speakers we’d heard from had used the word ‘blog’ in the title of their presentation, and that micro-blogging (eg. Tumblr, Twitter) was where he was writing his knowledge today. “Blogs are like stone,” he said, “I like the light-weight blogging platforms like Twitter”. And he’s right you know.

So maybe two years back Austin was alive with blogger meet-ups and how-tos but this year it’s short-form, image blogging, video and Twines that are beating the drum.

Did I mention who the most tweeted influencer at the event was? You’d think Elon Musk, the commercial space race pioneer, but no. According to analysis by social monitor Topsy, Musk generated 13,529 hashtag mentions on Twitter last weekend, while top honors went to Grumpy Cat who made an appearance at the Mashable tent with her owner and generated 51,293!

We’re also likely to see more NFC-enabled outdoor advertising if Samsung (who was pushing free pizza, salsa and brownies through street posters) continues to bring us new mind-boggling smartphones at the rate they are today.

Samsung NFC freebies

On wearable technology, that I mentioned yesterday, Disneyland was used as a case study of how it could potentially be used. The RFID wrist bands could not only allow you to store your ‘Disney credit’ for in-park purchases but could also magically tell Cinderella and Goofy characters your kid’s name as they approach them so they can greet them with a personalised hello and ask them if they enjoyed the Tea Cup ride they had just been on.

Google Glass

Wearable tech will also impact health and fitness in a huge way and not just for pedometer and calorie tracking like FitBit and Nike Fuel. “We’re going to see huge leaps in how data is accessed and tracked,” said Jennifer Darmour from Seattle based company Artefact, who spoke in depth about wearable technology that accesses consumer health data, “we’re talking about real time data that will help solve health crisis like obesity, like heart disease, depression and addiction.”


So that’s another SXSW Interactive wrapped up and unpacked – yes, it was bigger and better then last year and you bet we’ll be heading back to Austin for the event next year! Many thanks to Craig Bailey and Sora Nobari for joining me on the evolutionary journey, plus here’s a big shout out to our Pusher Sydney and Pusher Brisbane crew.

Have to run! Got a plane back to Sydney to catch, which with the time difference, is like travelling back in time. Funnily enough, it kind of feels that way. Cheers and thanks to the people of Austin for ‘keeping it weird’ and hosting another great event that glimpses into the digital future.



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Mike Crebar

Mike Crebar is strategy director and co-founder of Sydney and Brisbane based digital agency, Pusher.

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