Predictions for SXSW 2018

One of the most highly-anticipated conferences of the year is just around the corner. This year’s SXSW will be stacked with conversations across the board, with technology and design at the helm of nearly every conversation. Between the networking, beers, and stalking Mark Hammill, here are a few things to be on the lookout for on the interactive horizon, from mainstream and oblique angles alike.

Uber and Lyft—They’re Back!
Anyone that’s been to SX in the past, knows the headache of Austin banning these services. Say goodbye to huffing it two miles from your Airbnb to Downtown or meeting your new BFF in a three-hour cab line at the airport. Both Uber and Lyft are back up and running,, thanks to the passage of HB100 and the rollback on mandatory background checks on drivers of yesteryear. This year, we rideshare with abandon!

Cult Brands… Retail Brands… Purpose-Driven Brands… Oh my!

While there will be an amazing set of big and small brands alike at official SXSW events, some of the best experiences of the weekend can be had outside of the convention center. This year will be no different than years past, as brands will continue to dial up on expectations that bridge the intersection of technology, music, and film with smart activations. While they may not always hit the right target audience, these brands do benefit from significant chatter in the media, across social, and with buzz throughout the conference. Some of our favorites?

Politics—lot’s of politics.
With the domestic and global Breaking News headlines surfacing on an hourly basis these days, politics at this year’s SXSW will again take center stage on topics such as gun safety, immigration, the #metoo movement, fake news, and authenticity in media. Be on the lookout for specific tracks for social and political movements leveraging technology to advance their missions, including Race, Gender, LGBTQQIA, Social Impact and Diversity and Inclusion to name a few. We’ll see you at:

What a time to be in tech.
Attendees and speakers alike will be buzzing about all the emerging technologies advancing society forward in ways our world hasn’t seen since the Industrial Revolution: AI-enabling autonomous cars to reduce congestion and pollution; 5G offering the promise to improve inefficient and failing civic infrustructures; Cryptocurrency/Blockchain leading to tec(h)tonic shifts as they begin to see exponential growth across industries; and quantum computers solving questions that humans have yet to even conceive needing answers. And it’s not just a fun time to be in tech in the Western world—learn how some of China’s leading tech companies see human interaction transforming through AI. We’re most excited for:

What a time to be a woman in tech.
Not because there’s a [brave, amazingly impactful, mind blowing] social media campaign to remind co-workers to treat women like human beings in the workplace (and really, everywhere for that matter). Rather, gender is something we, at times, acknowledge and then ignore in a worthwhile effort at equality. SXSW doesn’t appear to be taking that approach this year. Instead, there are a number of sessions looking at how gender-based assumptions should be baked into products in service to users. Look out for ways to navigate potentially “edgy” product theory and make them mainstream from some highly accomplished product practitioners. Definitely check out:

And speaking of fun…
We will continue to see a lot of sometimes fun, sometimes interesting, and often strange applications of virtual reality, augmented reality, smart devices, and voice-controlled devices. Whether AR and VR have fully arrived as fruitful avenues for marketing or branding is still up for debate, but all of the brainpower being committed to these areas speaks to a larger, underlying hunt to find the next big platform to come after smartphones. See:

The Fairmont Hotel will open on time, maybe.
The addition of this new venue brings more event space and hotel inventory within walking distance of the Convention Center with a touch of fancy-smancy-ness: a new spa, big pool, and five bars. Of course, with the opening date still yet to be announced and the first day of SXSW looming, we’ll just be happy with clean towels and working locks on the rooms. And that’s not all that’s changing this year.