Tens of thousands of people have descended on Austin for the annual music, film and technology festival known as South by Southwest, or as it is more commonly called, SXSW.
Last year, more than 51,000 people attended SXSW, and in a testament to the strength of the digital economy, organizers expect at least that many to show this year. The technology portion of the festival opened Friday, March 13 and runs through Tuesday, March 17.
Attendees can select from a huge range of seminars organized on a variety of themes, including Art, Science, and Inspiration; Branding and Marketing; Content and Distribution; Design and Development; Entertainment and Immersion; Food and Experiential Dining; Gaming; Global Impact and Policy; Health and Business; Health and Medtech; Intelligent Future; Social and Privacy; Sports; Startup Village and Business; and Work and Career.
Looking to the Future
A number of the sessions in Friday's Interactive lineup were organized under the topic "Future15," in which attendees could select from a variety of forward-looking topics.
For instance, Sara Konrath, assistant professor at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, presented a seminar entitled "Beyond BFFs: Using Texting to Promote Empathy." The goal, she said, was to "explore the development of new SMS tools designed to help build empathy in teens and the research behind them."
A particularly hot topic, not surprisingly, is privacy. In a seminar entitled "Rethinking Privacy in the Internet of Things," UnboundID CEO Steve Shoaff noted that as the Internet of Things takes off, "the number of data points and identities can reach the billions pretty quickly." One consequence, he said, is that security issues and usage problems accelerate rapidly, and these issues, he argues, are not yet receiving enough attention.
Also on the docket for Friday's Future15 track were programs entitled "Trusted Filters and the Rise of Data Loyalty," "When Haters Show Up in Your Social Stream," and "Wi-Fi Privacy: When Sniffing Becomes Snooping."
But No Drones!
In keeping with SXSW's focus on cutting-edge technology, drones are one of this year's hot topics, but not without controversy. Last year, Chaotic Moon Studios, an Austin-based creative technology studio, caused a stir when it inadvertently tasered an intern with its innovative "Taser Drone."
Prior to the start of the festival, Chaotic Moon announced it would be demoing its newest model, "Drone Tyrone," which was equipped with modules for tagging walls with graffiti, launching silly string at targets, or firing a 3-foot flame to stop attackers.
Word of the new device reached the Austin Police Department, which made it absolutely clear that the Chaotic Moon drone -- or any drone, for that matter -- was unwelcome at SXSW.
In an official statement, the organizers of SXSW warned that unauthorized drone use could lead to arrest.
"The Austin Police Department will also be watching for drones in crowded and/or public areas where the drones could pose a risk to public safety," SXSW said on its blog. "Drones flown in the City of Austin are subject to seizure by the Austin Police Department and the operators are subject to fines and/or arrest."