It’s fitting that at the melting pot that is SXSW, one of the topics was around how Extended Reality (XR) is immersing our lives across industries and applications – from entertainment, media and retail, to health, IoT and engineering. And this is something that is happening now. Brands will be able to create much closer relationships with their consumers. At the same time it will transform the lives of many impaired people. For example, spatial/3d sound is a really interesting area that will aid the visually impaired. It will also enhance our experiences when consuming media, games, as well as real-time wayfinding.
Ethics and privacy were also a big discussion topic. As we know, empowering consumers by controlling their data is a complex task and legislature changes alone are not the solution. Proving integrity and traceability of usage and protecting consumer data, makes it extremely difficult when the breadcrumb trails go down a rabbit hole. Liability becomes a blame game. Moving forward, companies need to make privacy an integral part of their business from the day one if they are to avoid the hidden costs of data breaches. Regulations also need to be developed with the idea of creating competition not killing it.
Favourite South by Southwest moment: Seeing London-based post-punk band Black Midi for a breakneck performance.
As someone whose interested and reads a lot about AI, I’ve always been sceptical about what big corporations and the must-read trends are preaching. It’s simply not as simple as they make out. However, based on the discussions around AI and machine learning at SXSW, I do believe the capabilities are becoming more realistic as discussion move away from AI solving all our problems and replacing all our jobs. Everybody was pretty much in agreement that AI isn’t something that’s going to rule the world any time soon, although it’s becoming good at specific and isolated tasks. Now that companies have tried it out, they can see the challenges and the opportunities.
AI will however eat away at one repetitive job after another. AI isn’t great news for people working with numbers and finance, tasks either, as machines are great at that sort of thing. For years, we have built our education and working life around becoming good at these repetitive and non-creative tasks. Musician and artists – the very essence of creative jobs – have been forced out of the middle classes, that may now change. This was something reinforced by respected experts like John Maeda, Douglas Rushkoff, Bruce Sterling and Gary Kasparov at this year’s conference.
Favourite South by Southwest moment: Getting that “Yes, everything really is bigger in Texas” feeling when I was handed the biggest cup of takeout coffee I’ve ever seen.