With its timely precision in addressing creative innovation on worldwide matters, South by Southwest is the number one destination for professionals of a range of industries ready to discover “what’s next.” The event brings together interactive media, film, music, culture, and tech sectors to tackle the current breakthroughs in creativity that will shape the market for the next two to five years. As thousands of people flock to Austin for ten days of non-stop enlightenment, inspiration, and networking, marketers can expect new tools and trends for the future of communication. Here are our top bets for this year’s SXSW:


Virtual and Augmented Reality

Perhaps the most broadly discussed technology in the recent years, Virtual and Augmented Reality continues to generate buzz at the event. Companies like Sony keep pushing the limits of tech with mind-blowing advancements in augmented reality. This year, the company brought interactive holograms that work without the need for funny goggles or smart glasses: small 3D models of instruments, like a miniature piano and saxophone, that come to life under a projector’s light and let you play music, thanks to sensors that track your finger motions.

At the same time, Mixed and Augmented Reality games have emerged as a whole new form of entertainment. Sports games, like eBALLution’s “Pong!Pong!,” a table tennis developed with machine learning technology that tracks the ball’s motion to create an AR platform that combines the traditional game with digital elements into an exciting new version of table tennis.



The rapid rise of new tech like Pong!Pong!, which can be easily installed in any regular table tennis, suggests how far along the industry has come in AR development and just how versatile the technology can become.

Although not yet practical, Sony and eBALLution’s demos make for a more accessible AR technology that can be experienced collectively – and without the need for a helmet, goggles, or even smartphones. It’s plug and play.

The trick now is in finding better applications for the technology, which will, in turn, allow companies to commercialize them and thus create more immersive and unique experiences in virtually all industries.


Video Storytelling

Facebook’s activation at this year’s South by Southwest directly encourages marketers to use its products – Instagram, Messenger, and Oculus – to not only create more engaging experiences for its users but to also tell their stories in ways that drive better businesses outcomes. With features like Instagram’s Stories, Boomerang, and stop-motion videos, everyone and anyone can creatively generate content. Facebook wants marketers to explore the plethora of creative possibilities that each of its products brings, and then use them to convey brand messages in more compelling ways.

In its 2018 SXSW activation, the company set up a series of interactive experiences for each of its products – from a hands-on stop-motion studio to a Messenger bot that recommends local restaurants and bars – directed at marketers, while kicking off a B2B campaign called “It’s a Great Day to Video.” The aim is to educate and inspire marketers to create video campaigns that convey messages through storytelling, and that integrate across platforms.

This effort reflects the recent algorithm changes in Facebook and its products. The update now encourages meaningful interactions as a source of engagement, and Facebook wants to help marketers to drive outcomes by using their products to create relevant and long-lasting experiences for users.


Artificial Intelligence

Omnipresent, somehow feared, and much anticipated, AI is each time less of a thing of the future and more of a growing trend. Sure, we still don’t have hover-cars and high-tech robots, although those are likely elements of a not-so-distant future, technology has seen rapid developments and AI grows in prevalence.

This year’s SXSW explores the topic with both concern and excitement. Besides addressing issues such as the possible repercussions of a more fully integrated AI in our daily functions, the event will offer insight into the potential role and relationship that learning machines may come to have in the media and marketing industries. With AI each time more present, the conversation shifts to both more ethical and practical concerns: what could the possible repercussions on tasks such as content creation and creativity be?

And although not so obvious, AI has already entered our lives in less fantastical ways, such as Samsung’s Toonsquare, an AI app that analyses implied emotions and movements in texts, and automatically converts them into an animated cartoon. Or Aurora, a 3D assistant that recognizes gestures and location through the smartphone’s camera and seamlessly interacts with users using a voice system. For SXSW 2018, the AI Chatbot Abby helps the crowd navigate the event. The bot answers questions and suggests sessions using a personalized Natural Language Processing system to sound like a real person.

In a way, bots like Abby can help tailor the experience based on each user’s interest, which makes the journey much more relevant. AI sees new and more exciting developments each year, and although its advancement implies a direct disruption in the landscape of industries such as the media, transportation, retail, and even education, it also opens doors to a whole new wave of communication.



Stay tuned on all the keynote conversations and conferences at the 2018 SXSW: https://www.sxsw.com/.

eBALLution’s Pong!Pong! http://www.asobilabo.com/tq/pongpong/en/

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