South by Southwest Interactive 2012 is now over and it’s taken everyone probably a few days to get well-adjusted back to their normal routines and to take note of all the people that they’ve met, recount all the new things that they’ve learned, reminisce on the great memories they’ve made, and basically just detox from the incredible fun they had. This year had a bunch of highs and lows and if you happened to be at SXSW (or even if you weren’t there), here are a few things to note that helped shape this year’s conference into what it was:
Celebrities invade SXSW
This year probably saw more well-known celebrities hang out with the masses within the confines of the interactive part of SXSW. Sure, it may have been coincidental that they showed up at all the interactive parties and sessions while the Film portion was going on, but then again, it’s not that far-fetched to hear about celebrities taking an interest in technology. Hell, Two And A Half Men star Ashton Kutcher has invested in several well-known startups and even created one called Katalyst that sponsored the Foursquare party last year at SXSW. Even, The Social Network co-star Justin Timberlake is one of the owners of MySpace, while comedian Will Ferrell created the hit comedy site Funny or Die. Other celebrities include Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, and MC Hammer.
So at SXSW, the stars were out in force again to take note about the new and emerging tech while others chose to promote their very own startup. First spotted was Academy Award-winner Forest Whitaker who sat down with Shira Lazar for a live episode of What’s Trending from the Samsung TechSet Blogger Lounge where he announced that he was joining a collaborative film studio and social media platform Juntoboxfilms.com. Other celebrities that crossed paths with the tech world include former Vice-President Al Gore, who was on stage to interview famed entrepreneur and investor Sean Parker, Danielle Pannabaker, who was at the Tweethouse to talk Twitter and acting, and Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Lukas Haas, and Kevin Connolly, all of whom were spotted at the Mobli launch party.
Smashing Pumpkin’s lead singer Billy Corgan also made an appearance at SXSW and showed up on stage for an interview with Altimeter Group’s Brian Solis to talk about the music industry and how it could change. Prior to that, he sat down with Ms. Lazar for What’s Trending in the Samsung TechSet Blogger Lounge to give a preview of his talk.
And if you count musicians, SXSW interactive was definitely one hell of a party–Jay-Z made an appearance this year and held a truly interactive concert hosted by American Express. This was a milestone for the rapper, as it marked his first solo performance at the festival (music, film, or interactive), and the show was even simulcast over the Internet–it became an instant trending topic.
The winners of SXSW
It’s clear that no one really won this year. No emerging technology was the most talked about like we experienced with Twitter and Foursquare in the past. But besides that, there were some great things that won over the people. In fact, one of them was probably the main thing that people will see over the next few years: food trucks. Yes, that’s right…this year we saw more and more trucks being parked around the downtown Austin area. From Mashable to Whole Foods, and even NBC’s Today Show, there was a lot of options for people to get their grub on without needing to wait around in the long lines at the nearby establishments or even in the convention center. These are great opportunities to really connect with the masses and fortunately for everyone, the weather wound up clearing up and let people enjoy the outdoors for a while.
So I suppose that leads me to the next winner: the event planners who had expected to hold their events out in the sun. Weeks before SXSW, many people probably thought it was going to be hot and sunny all through the interactive portion. Unfortunately, the early days of interactive wound up being a bit of a rained-out mess, but after a couple days, the sun peeked its head out through the clouds and brought warmth and sun to the festivities. Bing, who had an open-air lounge, was able to operate without having to have people stay inside, while the Nike area, which enabled people to get a bit of exercise, could actually be useful. Even those events in sheltered venues were able to reap the benefits since most people probably didn’t want to stay close to their hotels and could now venture out without being drenched on.
Next up? If SXSW this year showed us anything, is that with each passing year, more and more apps are coming out to get our attention and with each successive year, more and more of our phone’s battery will start to drain away requiring us to practically be tethered to an outlet at all hours of the day. Thankfully, the invention of tools like the Mophie powerpack or other similar portable battery devices have become a godsend to many people who eagerly wish to use the latest and greatest application available out there. Even TechCrunch is declaring the Mophie the real SXSW “winner”. Sure, there were charging stations centered around all downtown Austin, but that would require people to only stay in one spot and, as we know from it being SXSW, you can’t be in one spot longer than a few minutes or you’re going to miss something. Having a device like the Mophie has become more crucial than ever and if the mobile device doesn’t find a way to increase the battery life, better stock up on your portable batteries for next year!
What’s this about proximity apps?
As SXSW neared, there was a lot of hype given to the new age of proximity apps like Highlight, Glancee, Banjo, etc. and some thought that it would become the next big thing. Unfortunately, with the issue surrounding battery life and the drainage people incurred as a result of these apps, most of the time people stuck to using more tried and true methods of finding their friends like using Foursquare, Twitter, and even group messaging services like TextPlus or GroupMe. With over 20,000 people in attendance at SXSW, it’s going to be hard to pick out someone in the crowd that is right near you, especially if you’re in a darkened area like a Jay-Z concert or in a crowded area like Mashable’s party or trying to get into the Foursquare event. Even with all this against them, some probably managed to “steal the show”, but didn’t really seem to garner the interest like you would expect with Twitter or Foursquare.
If you do a search on proximity apps on Google and how they’ve fared at SXSW, one of the things you might notice is that the one app that stood out and got the most buzz was Highlight. Reuters has cited it as the star of the show (although that remains debatable). If anything, it’s one of the most-talked about apps that didn’t really earn all the hype that it was hoping to receive. I’m sure that there’s some more in store with proximity apps, but at SXSW, it just didn’t live up to the hype.
So there you have it…a quick recap of some of the things that went down at this year’s SXSW. If you ever want to look at some of the photos from the festivities, make sure you check out my Flickr photostream.
Photo credit: All photos shown here were taken by Ken Yeung.