Notes and Trends from 2016 SXSW…so far

Posted by JamesonSheppard on March 15, 2016

Part 1 of 2: Jameson Sheppard, Creative Director.

Austin, TX is certainly the place to be this week if you’re interested in technology, design, and innovation. The vibe at this year’s SXSW Interactive festival feels similar to years’ past with regard to the level of excitement, the large crowds, and amount of technology walking down the street –sometimes literally in the form of robots.

1935219_10153350750206857_8464889826633478264_n.jpgThis year the tradeshow floor has a strong mix of vendors and specialists. I’ve seen a better variety, more production cameras, and plenty of other services that seem practical versus hypothetical. I will say, there are way too many GIF photo booths. It’s like someone offered a special at the tradeshow store. It’s interesting to see how something that could have been a unique idea quickly became a commodity.

One of my favorite things about this year is having more accessibility to experiential gadgets. I remember standing in line for several hours to try on Oculus Rift when it first launched. This year, more people are getting the chance to do more.

When it comes to the sessions, things seem to flow better in terms of likeminded sessions being scheduled closer to each other in proximity, so there’s less time needed for logistics. Thumbs up to the organizers for making it easier to get around.12801209_10153344096186857_8405642420428044194_n.png

While it has only been a few days of attending the festival, I’ve spotted a few trends worth mentioning:


Virtual Reality Media Finds A Home in Story

Storytelling has always been a driving factor behind virtual and interactive media implementations, but has struggled to progress in the past few years due to technical limitations. This year, media companies such as The New York Times are bringing their own stories, documentaries and content to VR devices – allowing their user base to experience news, art and fashion, not just to read about it. Virtual reality touches all industries. Anarghya Vardhana, a Sr. Associate at Maveron, described it as allowing us to consider what is possible. She also predicts that brands not using it today could find themselves in a similar predicament to late mobile adoption. Kevin Cornish, the founder of Image Theory, is forecasting that Virtual Reality implementations will exist as more short-format content, not the long-form immersive experiences earlier anticipated by the industry.


On the Horizon: Multi-path Storytelling

Those longer experiences might find themselves in long-form interactive media. The film 'Late Shift' by CtrlMovie is perhaps the first fully multi-optional film to be produced. The movie, featuring 180 decision points with instant response flow takes the standard hero's journey into a more pyramidal structure with multiple outcomes for the protagonist. This ambitious project marks a turning point for platforms that industries such as education and training can use to explore choice and consequence scenarios with seamless interactions.


Creative Discovery Through Discomfort and Uncertainty

An increasingly evident trend through multiple sessions has been discovering creative solutions and stronger team dynamics through discomfort. Shokare Nakpodia is a creative director for The Mightygroup in San Antonio. In discussing design for community development, Shokare made note that we can only express the contents of our mind. Without the experience, we will not have anything to speak to. Bill Connors, the Director for Marketing of Red Bull put his team through a unique team building exercise in an abandoned warehouse where cabins were built throughout – and customized to each team member's unique situations and challenges. Through this opportunity, the team learned more about working together and recognized their own personal dynamics and limitations in a very real way. Managing through uncertainty is the best path to success in these environments.

I’m excited to continue exploring and learning this week. Ann Newland, our vice president of digital strategy, and I are both here capturing great ideas and content. Ann will share Part 2 of this round up tomorrow, and we’ll connect on Friday with our official wrap of the week, so be sure to check back. In the meantime, follow our journey on the Mitchell Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr accounts.

Topics: Creative, Digital, SXSW