SxSW Daily Digest | Day Three | Sunday 13th March

Today was the day that the trade shows, expos and showcases opened in earnest. So, when I was unable to get in to the first talk I fancied in the morning (the impressive sounding Human-Centered Design: Why Empathy Isn’t Enough by AirBnB’s Steve Selzer) – a rummage through the air-hanger sized Trade Expo in the main hall felt like the next best thing. And what an experience that proved to be.

The next few hours was a blur of miniature 3D printers for personal use, a virtual reality vacation app taking you to the far flung corners of the world from the comfort of your own home, an opera performed live in a pre-built Minecraft world for an audience of 6-graders in an attempt to engage them with classical culture, a pair of shoes fitted with a TENS electrical pulse to be used as a pain management product, giving blood to Orig3n, who would then turn this back to stem cells and in turn to tissue to be used in experiments to drive forward their work in genetically inherited diseases – it was pretty mind blowing stuff and make it very clear that some blend of virtual, augmented and mixed reality is going to form a huge part of the technology landscape of the next few years.

Before allowing myself to float too far in to the stratosphere, the suitably provocative How to Stop Speaking Bullshit was on hand with a welcome dose of cynicism. Jon Favreau, who spent 8 years as Director of Speechwriting for President Obama, led a panel discussion around how we can rediscover brand trust and engagement through as honest and simple messaging as possible.

At SxSW, we are spoilt rotten by the abundance of fusion cuisines available from the multiple food trucks dotted around the streets, wafting their impossible-to-resist aromas as far as the nose can see. So, after my third consecutive taco lunch (Korean barbecue this time), it was time to head in to hear about IBM’s advancements in Artificial Intelligence over the last 20 or so years with IBM Watson: Information, Insight and Inspiration. Suffice it to say, they’ve come a long way since Deep Blue beat Gary Kasparov, the world chess master, in 1997. With the ability to read 800 million pages of text per second, conduct unsupervised learning, learn from its mistakes, question the truth in what its reading – it was absolutely fascinating hearing the current and future uses of IBM’s AI software (Watson) in modern life – most inspiring to me were its uses in oncology and the potential in that space.

Another day full to the brim of cutting edge, astoundingly futuristic innovation happening now and (most importantly) tasty food was to be rounded off with a group trip to the infamous Salt Lick. Yeeeeehaa Cowboy!

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