#SXSW Interactive – Friday Reflections of a Newbie

It’s rainy and cold in Austin, but the locals are cheering on the rain. That’s ok, because it can’t put a damper on the enthusiasm of #SXSWi.

This is my first time at the convention, so I have a couple newbie observations. First of all, I’ve never seen so many gadgets in one place – and that’s not on the trade show floor – but rather in attendees hands. High powered cameras, video cameras, mobile devices galore and of course ipads and laptops, so much so, that attendees camp around power outlets. (Someone please come up with a phone that lasts all day – when actually used all day.) Each session is given a twitter hash tag, and often the speakers encourage tweets throughout the session, and use twitterfeed to pull questions from the audience. I like that use of technology.

After this, I am convinced of the mobile device as a staple of society moving forward. (No, I wasn’t already). I’m excited to see what form it will take. We need innovators to break out of the rectangular box design.

Speaking of mobile innovation, one demonstrator that stood out to me, Isis, offers a mobile wallet solution. It requires a user to have a NFC-enabled phone, which will be release by major carriers this summer. Merchants just need to have a contactless reader that accepts Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express. To make it even simpler, the merchants should also have Isis software, although it can work without. Customers just select their payment option on their phone by clicking on the credit card icon they want to use, then tap their phone against the reader, and payment is transferred. Great concept, although it still gives a percentage to the big four credit card companies, which takes money out of local economies, but maybe this will allow for a surge of local credit cards? Might be possible with this setup. I was told I could integrate a local rewards program into the software.

Went to an intriguing session about training positive neuroplasticity. Too much information to share here, but I’m definitely going to share it with our development team. As you might have guessed, the condition of our bodies is directly related to the performance of our brains. However, moderation is the key – simple things can exercise your body and brain without hitting the gym five times a week. And easy nutritional guidelines help as well. It has implications for ADHD, Asperger’s and Autism, and I can’t wait to research that more.

Knowing there are a lot of smart people in attendance, I was surprised at the amount of lame questions asked at the end of the session (people not using their brains), until one attendee asked a GREAT question – if it is shown that these types of non-pharmaceutical solutions are available for our health, why isn’t science delving into these areas of research? WHY INDEED? Basically, the neuro-scientist said that a hypothesis is currently necessary to prove/ disprove something in the medical world. Thankfully with all the data floating around in cyberspace, we can start to figure things out by just chugging through all that data – without first having a hypothesis.

Was proud of the representation of my home state at a session by a group of Ohio design companies who highlighted some of the very innovative machines they’ve built – a vending machine that records your photo and dispenses ice cream based on the strength of your smile – various carnival games that exist in real-life, but that are controlled remotely by users over the internet – a mobile 1973 RV named MERV that interacts with students at college visitations – really creative stuff.

Creativity is the name of the game, and I’m ready to get some more inspiration.


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