Tech and trends from this year’s festival

SXSW may not have had major breakouts this year like it has in the past (Twitter, Foursquare, the late Meerkat), but it did showcase a variety of innovative products and services that may soon find their way into consumers’ hands or impact their daily lives. Here are a few of the themes that emerged as we explored the trends on display.


Unsurprisingly, there was no shortage of virtual reality on display at this year’s festival. Filmmakers addressed the dearth of VR content, with a number of notable experiences premiering at the festival. The trade show floor was flooded with VR, but it was hard to miss the huge bubble screen and hydraulic seat that comprised the 8K VR ride “Tokyo Victory.” Rather than utilize a headset, the ride’s screen offered 7680 x 4320 pixels, or twice as many as 4K video. The result was an immersive experience that took the viewer soaring past notable Tokyo landmarks. The makers currently don’t have commercial plans for the technology but created the ride to demonstrate the capabilities of 8K video.


Adam Cheyer, the creator of Siri and her new big sister “Viv,” told crowds at SXSW that the singularity isn’t as near as we think, and we should consider AI as another tool to supplement human intelligence. Festival goers were able to get up close and personal with AI technology at IBM’s activation, Personali-Tee, in which Watson chatted with festival goers to determine their personalities based on a few simple questions. They then received a T-shirt with a symbol designed to indicate their personality type, such as Mentor or Connector. Those who couldn’t attend the show could still test out the experience and receive a customized profile, which also included an analysis of their communication style.


Plenty of brands offered free suds at the festival, but for people looking to brew up a batch at home, “personal craft beer brewery” PicoBrew stood out. The product launched with beer brands like Rogue and Steel Toad offering Freestyle PicoPaks, currently in beta, that let people create their perfect pints at home. Young drinkers are drawn to small batch and craft labels, and the product lets them customize a recipe based on their desired beer profile. Oliso Smart Hub was promoting a similar home brewery concept for its smart cooker, which can be used to experiment with craft brewing in addition to cooking.