The Secrets of SXSW 2017

Matthew Ray
March 29, 2017

My third trip to Austin for South By Southwest (SXSW) has me all shook up with new ideas and big challenges!

Because I am such a giving person, I’ve decided to share some of the greatest things I learned in Texas.

Sony Ain’t Out Of It Yet 

Over the last few decades, Japanese super-corporation Sony famously lost face and market share on multiple fronts to innovative products by Apple and other companies. But this year, the tech giant made a big comeback at SXSW with the most innovative exhibit I’ve seen. The Sony “Wow Factory” debuted demonstrations in VR, AR, gaming, and technology that I can’t even categorize. My favorite was the Motion Sonic Project, a device they believe will redesign the relationship between people and sound.  The slim wristband responds to the wearer’s movements, translating dance moves from the Lambada to the Robot into beautiful music.

Trans Acceptance Marches On

Tinder founder Sean Rad spoke on a panel about inclusivity at SXSW, where he announced that since GLAAD worked with Tinder to make the platform trans-inclusive, Tinder has matched more than 250,000 trans users. That’s a huge number and shows that transgender inclusion can increase revenue and community. Rad believes that when Tinder released its “More Genders” update last November, it sent a strong message to tens of millions of people that trans people were welcome on Tinder.

PetTech is Still Hot, and Getting Hotter

SXSW always sneak-peeks the next wave of hip products, and this year was no exception. For all of you uber-active pet owners who don’t always have time to play fetch with Spot, let me introduce you to Gomi! Gomi is an autonomous ball that will roll, vibrate, and change colors to keep our pets interest for 30 minutes at a time. Gomi is also a bit of an AI, as it will learn from your dogs play patterns and adjust its behavior to engage Lassie for longer. It’s also designed to resist a German Shepard’s bite! With active Gen Xers and Millennials constantly looking for new ways to entertain and adore their furry friends – Gomi is poised for an amazing initial launch.  

Collaboration Is Critical

From a spell-binding interview with the legendary Frank Oz, to Dr. Jennifer Duadna’s mind-blowing keynote on CRSPR, collaboration seemed to resonate consistently at SXSW. All the experts in Austin echoed the idea that creativity should not live in an ethical vacuum. Everyone was talking about the importance of ethics, philosophy, morality and spirituality converging with tech and digital innovations. This is a new idea for many of us in the digital or tech space, who sometimes forget to ask ourselves “Is this actually making our lives better?” before we rush an app to market. Many of the experts challenged the SXSW audience to ponder the ramifications of technological leaps on society.

Philly Colleges Get In The Mix: #TempleMade

Partnering with RecPhilly and Amplify Philly, Temple University threw an amazing alumni event at SXSW. SXSW has long been a mecca for corporate interest to come and ideate and innovate, but having a City of Brotherly Love university on the ground offers an opportunity for educational institutions to connect and support. With one of the major drivers to the Philadelphia economy being our award-winning higher education systems, a collegiate presence gives the city an extra gold star. And as a proud Temple alum, it was a real buzz to see the Temple “T” flying over 6th Street throughout the days of events.  

SXSW gets a (sometimes deserved) bad rap as simply an opportunity for Gen Xers to indulge in some corporate spring break. And sure, that happens. I’ve witnessed some colleagues spend too many hours creeping around the free cocktails and not enough time absorbing the intelligentsia.  

Anything I missed? Were you at SXSW? Let us know your favorite moments in the comments below or on Twitter.