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Six Highlights from SXSW 2018

Six Highlights from SXSW 2018

Martin Pietragalla

Martin Pietragalla

March 22, 2018

Havas Argentina’s Martín Pietragalla shares his takeaways from the festival and what it means for the advertising industry

"AI will have an impact two times greater than the impact created by the Industrial Revolution."

The worlds of creativity, entertainment, and technology once again met in Austin as part of the SXSWi festival, which wrapped up last week. From panels and concerts to exhibitions, activations, movies, and everything in between, SXSW can often feel like navigating a futuristic carnival.

This year’s festival was no different. AI, blockchain, space travel, and AR were discussed as some of the emerging tech that will shape 2018 and beyond, but the festival also had a dose of responsibility and morality too.

Westworld and a world of hope

The Westworld panel was a big hit at this year’s conference, not only showing a teaser trailer for the upcoming Season 2, but also including a guest appearance from Elon Musk, co-founder of Tesla and SpaceX. In contrast to world events, and a generally gloomy vibe at the show, Musk spoke optimistically about sending a Tesla into space, and about what an exciting time it is to be alive. “There’s a guy called [Konstantin Tsiolkovsky], one of the early Russian rocket scientists. [He had] a great saying, ‘Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot stay in the cradle forever.’ It is time to go forth, become a star-faring civilization, be out there among the stars, expand the scope and scale of human consciousness,” Musk said. “I find that incredibly exciting. That makes me glad to be alive. I hope you feel the same way.”

A panel led by NASA scientists and developers examined the importance of both the arts and engineering industries to work hand in hand as we look to develop that space. But before getting there, Uber and Embraer are developing flying taxis that are likely to be working for 2020 and will be launched globally on 2024. The software is currently being tested, and they are automatizing the landing and key parts of the flight to create an amazing experience for the user, as well as a good economy for the electric management of it. This will allow passengers to get home in a faster, safer, and more comfortable way.

AI and language as a tool

Language and voice are key elements when we talk about AI. Richard Socher, chief scientist at Salesforce, said that AI will have an impact two times greater than the impact created by the Industrial Revolution. The combination of data, algorithms, and computation will help foster a deep process of learning, while at the same time allowing a natural connection with language. In 2012, artificial intelligence began to understand how humans made neural connections, then in 2015 robotics advanced to the point where robots could imitate the movements of a human. Now scientists are working on making discourse transcriptions, capitalizing on grammatical structures, and combining them with localisms, slang, and other variables. In the short term, we expect natural language made by AI to respect contextual and personal patterns fluidly.

Future of design

Sight, touch, and voice will be at the forefront of design technology. Google’s Laura Granka and Hector Ouilhet, said that interfaces will always be focused on conversations, but the current goal is for them to be as intuitive and natural as humans, and to be able to understand emotions. Instead of typing in information, we’ll be able to create a conversation. The challenge is to solve the daily issues of each individual by designing an accompaniment for each moment, e.g., arriving tired from work, having a meeting with friends, passing an afternoon with family, etc. The goal is to make design an invisible yet distinctive part of a person’s life.

"Use technology as a bridge to find the best present."

Seeing the world through someone else’s eyes

Content and its role in society was a common topic in talks given by journalist and “Godmother of VR” Nonny de la Peña, R/GA’s AJ Hassan, and Pepsico’s Todd Kaplan. Each presentation had its own perspective:  de la Peña explained in depth how virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and robotics will allow us to experience the lives of people dealing with issues like the refugee crisis in Syria or domestic abuse.

On the other hand, Hassan and Kaplan spoke about how commodity products such as water could become more purpose driven and function as a bridge to solve social issues without negatively affecting business.

Blockchain will transform the entertainment, logistics, and art industries

According to Joseph Lubin, founder and creator of the world’s second-most famous cryptocurrency Ethereum, blockchain technology can be powerful application for various industries given its ability to eliminate intermediaries. This could lead to more transparency and implementation speed. Direct contact between parties was a central topic in many talks. Tanarra Schneider, Fjord Chicago Managing Director, said that the blockchain could be a way to solve the current trust crisis. The interactions transparency inherent in this scheme could allow us to go from “touchpoints” to “trust points.”

Equality as the key for entertainment

The female POV was a much-needed presence in many talks, even where diversity was not the topic. In the Westworld panel, actress Thandie Newton spoke about the importance of equality when asked about the show’s use of women in powerful roles. In “Female Gaze,” a panel comprised of only female film directors, panelists highlighted that for every 23 male directors there was only one woman. The film portion of the conference addressed this disparity by ensuring that 60 percent of films at the festival were either directed or co-directed by women.

And what does this mean for the advertising industry? We need to create meaningful purpose driven solutions, through our senses and emotions, and focus on bettering people’s lives. Use technology as a bridge to find the best present. This will allow us to see a universe of opportunities.

"AI will have an impact two times greater than the impact created by the Industrial Revolution."

The worlds of creativity, entertainment, and technology once again met in Austin as part of the SXSWi festival, which wrapped up last week. From panels and concerts to exhibitions, activations, movies, and everything in between, SXSW can often feel like navigating a futuristic carnival.

This year’s festival was no different. AI, blockchain, space travel, and AR were discussed as some of the emerging tech that will shape 2018 and beyond, but the festival also had a dose of responsibility and morality too.

Westworld and a world of hope

The Westworld panel was a big hit at this year’s conference, not only showing a teaser trailer for the upcoming Season 2, but also including a guest appearance from Elon Musk, co-founder of Tesla and SpaceX. In contrast to world events, and a generally gloomy vibe at the show, Musk spoke optimistically about sending a Tesla into space, and about what an exciting time it is to be alive. “There’s a guy called [Konstantin Tsiolkovsky], one of the early Russian rocket scientists. [He had] a great saying, ‘Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot stay in the cradle forever.’ It is time to go forth, become a star-faring civilization, be out there among the stars, expand the scope and scale of human consciousness,” Musk said. “I find that incredibly exciting. That makes me glad to be alive. I hope you feel the same way.”

A panel led by NASA scientists and developers examined the importance of both the arts and engineering industries to work hand in hand as we look to develop that space. But before getting there, Uber and Embraer are developing flying taxis that are likely to be working for 2020 and will be launched globally on 2024. The software is currently being tested, and they are automatizing the landing and key parts of the flight to create an amazing experience for the user, as well as a good economy for the electric management of it. This will allow passengers to get home in a faster, safer, and more comfortable way.

AI and language as a tool

Language and voice are key elements when we talk about AI. Richard Socher, chief scientist at Salesforce, said that AI will have an impact two times greater than the impact created by the Industrial Revolution. The combination of data, algorithms, and computation will help foster a deep process of learning, while at the same time allowing a natural connection with language. In 2012, artificial intelligence began to understand how humans made neural connections, then in 2015 robotics advanced to the point where robots could imitate the movements of a human. Now scientists are working on making discourse transcriptions, capitalizing on grammatical structures, and combining them with localisms, slang, and other variables. In the short term, we expect natural language made by AI to respect contextual and personal patterns fluidly.

Future of design

Sight, touch, and voice will be at the forefront of design technology. Google’s Laura Granka and Hector Ouilhet, said that interfaces will always be focused on conversations, but the current goal is for them to be as intuitive and natural as humans, and to be able to understand emotions. Instead of typing in information, we’ll be able to create a conversation. The challenge is to solve the daily issues of each individual by designing an accompaniment for each moment, e.g., arriving tired from work, having a meeting with friends, passing an afternoon with family, etc. The goal is to make design an invisible yet distinctive part of a person’s life.

"Use technology as a bridge to find the best present."

Seeing the world through someone else’s eyes

Content and its role in society was a common topic in talks given by journalist and “Godmother of VR” Nonny de la Peña, R/GA’s AJ Hassan, and Pepsico’s Todd Kaplan. Each presentation had its own perspective:  de la Peña explained in depth how virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and robotics will allow us to experience the lives of people dealing with issues like the refugee crisis in Syria or domestic abuse.

On the other hand, Hassan and Kaplan spoke about how commodity products such as water could become more purpose driven and function as a bridge to solve social issues without negatively affecting business.

Blockchain will transform the entertainment, logistics, and art industries

According to Joseph Lubin, founder and creator of the world’s second-most famous cryptocurrency Ethereum, blockchain technology can be powerful application for various industries given its ability to eliminate intermediaries. This could lead to more transparency and implementation speed. Direct contact between parties was a central topic in many talks. Tanarra Schneider, Fjord Chicago Managing Director, said that the blockchain could be a way to solve the current trust crisis. The interactions transparency inherent in this scheme could allow us to go from “touchpoints” to “trust points.”

Equality as the key for entertainment

The female POV was a much-needed presence in many talks, even where diversity was not the topic. In the Westworld panel, actress Thandie Newton spoke about the importance of equality when asked about the show’s use of women in powerful roles. In “Female Gaze,” a panel comprised of only female film directors, panelists highlighted that for every 23 male directors there was only one woman. The film portion of the conference addressed this disparity by ensuring that 60 percent of films at the festival were either directed or co-directed by women.

And what does this mean for the advertising industry? We need to create meaningful purpose driven solutions, through our senses and emotions, and focus on bettering people’s lives. Use technology as a bridge to find the best present. This will allow us to see a universe of opportunities.

Focused on strategic planning and integration of tools for analysis & projection of brands, he's worked with P & G, Disney, Microsoft, & many others.

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