All of the technology that was promised in 2015 is now here. But what do we do with it?! This seemed the common theme at this year's South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Conference in Austin, TX .
Overall, SXSW included a lot of Virtual Reality (VR). Wherever we went at SXSW, someone was wearing VR goggles. Samsung Gear was the dominant VR tech of choice, as opposed to the Oculus Rift. A couple of the reasons being that Samsung Gear is less expensive, less bulky, not tethered by wires, and developers have been able to build content for the device for over a year. The consumer version of the Oculus Rift was just released but is on the pricey side, and needs a significant computer behind it in order to showcase the content.
Developers have not cracked the VR code yet, as most of the VR experiences were substandard. Nevertheless, some did stand out. Two VR experiences in particular caught our attention. McDonalds took advantage of gesture-based controls to take VR to the next level. And in the Conference Hall, there was an experience where you could use LEGOs to create a building and then preview what you just built with a VR headset.
There was also a lot of discussion regarding the struggle of collecting data and making sense of it. How do we take the fact that we can now track the customer’s location and use it as a marketing tool in a way that isn’t creepy? The struggle is real – how do we keep the consumer from being creeped out that advertisers and marketers can actually see what they’re doing, and how can this data be used to enhance the sales experience?
Other notable tech at the conference included Intel RealSense. This technology uses a 3D camera to "see" like the human eyes, sense depth, and track human motion. Intel RealSense made an appearance attached to a Coca-Cola machine where you could get a Coke for smiling. Who wouldn’t want to get a soda for smiling?! It was a really good representation of how Intel RealSense works, but we're not sure how this technology will ultimately be deployed.
Despite the promising future of wearables tech, they did not take off as originally anticipated. Activity trackers are generally deemed uninteresting after 4-6 months of use. The challenge is how can companies engage customers on a long term basis and create a meaningful experience? Currently, content developers are really struggling with how to take the abundance of information that wearables can collect and provide valuable analytics to the consumer. Counting steps and providing static activity charts just isn’t cutting it anymore.
It's clear the development community needs more time with the technology hardware that is now available to create mind-bending content and killer apps to help all of this tech go mainstream. Part of the issue is that there is so much new tech out there, developers are not sure where to focus first. This should shake out a bit by next year's event. We also expect some additional ground breaking tech to make a big impact at SXSW 2017 including Microsoft's Hololens augmented reality device. ATM has high hopes for this particular tech and will be starting our development with our own Hololens kit shortly.
All around, the conference was a good time. There was a big Ferris Wheel for Mr. Robot and lots of people partying that shouldn’t have been partying! Austin, TX is a great city and if you ever get a chance, definitely check out the SXSW interactive conference.