Why Music Isn’t The Only Cool Thing at SXSW

I have just returned to rainy London from sunny Austin after attending SXSW. For those not familiar with the festival, it’s made up of three parts: Interactive, Film and Music.

The coolest upcoming and established bands flock to Texas this weekend, but ahead of that, the streets of Austin were awash with geeks and techies. Foursquare check-ins were trending and Twitter was buzzing with the #sxsw hashtag. SXSW interactive festival was the place to be for the coolest of the nerds to hang out between 8-12 March.

The Interactive festival is an opportunity to learn about everything techy. It’s Mecca for any geeks wanting to embrace digital creativity.  The people who talk are seriously clever and are involved in cutting edge technology including apps, websites and your favourite social networks (plus the ones you haven’t even heard of yet).

The festival has been going for twenty years. Just imagine how much tech has evolved over that time. Just try and imagine a world with no Facebook, no Twitter, no MYSPACE…no thanks. SXSWi is known for offering a sneak peek into the future of cool, with social networks often taking the opportunity to reveal the latest updates to their apps and sites.

There were people walking around wearing Google Glasses – in any other situation they would look weird, but at SXSWi they were Gods, with people queueing up to take pictures with them.

HelloGiggles also shared expertise, with Sophia Rossi sitting on a panel about profit and purpose for websites as well as Rebecca Ferdnandez, who shared a lively debate about whether women’s media is too girly, contributing to one of many topics that makes the tech discussion applicable to real life.

Talking of real life, SXSWi attendees got the chance to meet the one and only ‘Grumpy Cat’ of internet fame in all his feline glory. He was even met by a Vampire. Well, by Ian Somerhalder of Vampire diaries fame. Cutest ever. That’s cute, scary and sexy all at the same time.

The festival provided space to discuss how much digital and social media is now integrated into everyday life, including panels to discuss commentary on how Twitter enhances the way we watch TV and a review of how digital is enhancing fashion.

Talking of those apps you haven’t heard of yet, there are some tips on the hot new things to watch out for. Banjo, an app that takes social media to a new immersive level. The app lets you discover what’s around you through a largely visual interface and even gives you  an alert if anybody you follow on social is near to you (as you can imagine, Banjo alerts were going off left, right and center in Austin, so much so people even deleted the app from their phone).

Another cool app on show was Ghost Post, which allowed users to anonymously upload commentary about the festival for others to review in secret society style. With the rise of SnapChat, which only allows you to keep messages for up to ten seconds, real time chat could be something we are set to see more of.

There was also an insight into the way we’ll use technology, with Leap Motion showcasing how you will be able to control your desktop computer through hand motions. How very Matrix.

Which of these tech trends will actually affect you going forwards? Here was lots of talk about “wearables”. What are wearables? Anything that you wear on your body that tracks what you do. Fancy. Current examples of wearables include Nike FuelBand and even these GPS shoes. Just check out the twinkly toes on these bad boys:

The problem with wearable technology at the moment is it’s not particularly fashion focused. There isn’t much you can do to customise your fitness band, despite having it in a different colour. The future is tipped to have data tracking technology as part of your gym clothes, or even jewelry. It’s all about the tech bling.

Look out for visual media as well. There were a tonne of panels on visual narration, so brands are paying attention to Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr, which means they should be providing us with even more behind the scenes images than ever. Hurrah!

SXSWi wasn’t all about learning about all the cool. There is also a tonne of partying, because geeks party harder than anyone else, particularly in the company of their geek idols.

Austin is also awesome. There was super hot sunshine (coming home to snow in London was not fun!), a great mix of people, awesome food and a skyline to boot. #SXSWiloveyou

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