Holograms were a hot topic this month at SXSW in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Martina Welkehoff)
SXSW has been one of my favorite annual events for years because it brings together such an eclectic group of people, and there is never a shortage of new things to experience.
This year was unique as many of us came out of our pandemic cocoons for the first time in two years. While much of the festival felt familiar, it was clear that the tech landscape has changed in some exciting ways while we were all video calling.
Here are some of my best takeaways from a few whirlwind days in Austin:
Martina Welkoff, co-founder and managing partner at the WXR Fund. (WXR photo)
Web3 is dominant
It seemed like every street corner in Austin was full of announcements for an NFT drop, new metaverse, or crypto event. On one of the first activations I walked in, I was offered a free NFT at the door and went up the stairs to watch multiple people in headsets playing a VR social game projected onto the walls. Most of this technology has been part of SXSW in the past, but this year it was inescapable and part of almost every conversation.
Holograms are here
One of my favorite sci-fi elements is closer than ever to being realized on a large scale. I traveled to Austin to review the Extended Reality and Immersive Technology competition; the winner of this year’s contest, Matsuko, promises to let users experience “true holographic presence using only a smartphone”.
We’re finally getting to a point where holographic content creation is accessible to a broad user base, and we’re just starting to get an idea of what that could unlock. At a panel on volumetric production, Yasmin Elayat, co-founder of Scatter, was asked what the future holds. “I’m looking forward to more live streaming, real-time content,” she said. “We envision a future where volumetric video and your hologram will be your passport to the metaverse.”
Sound is key
I was lucky enough to catch up with Jacqueline Bosnjak, the CEO and founder of the sound technology company Mach1, and get an update on the latest spatial audio. We reminisced about the launch of Bose AR at an earlier SXSW – an effort that the company sadly abandoned only a few years later. As spatial audio has been embraced by Apple and made popular in apps like Clubhouse, there is a renewed energy around the possibilities for how sound can transform digital experiences. Mach1 recently announced a partnership with Evercast that will enable remote sound mixing assessments, making it easier to produce content for distributed teams.
Increased emphasis on social justice and equity
Much of the content in this year’s XR Experience Exhibition reflected the wider conversation about social justice that has driven movements like Black Lives Matter in recent years. I was particularly moved by Breonna’s Garden, a VR experience (also available on mobile AR) that immerses the viewer in the life of Breonna Taylor. The emotional impact of that particular piece was so intense that I actually had to take a break before it was finished, and I plan to watch it again.
“And it will be a long time before the metaverse can match Austin’s tacos.”
Off the show floor, I was thrilled to see books like Inclusion on Purpose by Ruchika Tulshyan and How To Be An Ally by Melinda Epler appearing at the festival this year.
There is real magic to get together in person
Even with all of this great technology and content SXSW has to offer, the main highlight of my time in Austin has been seeing old friends, dining together, and having casual conversations with new friends over drinks. I’m a big believer in the power of technology to bring us together, and I’ll continue to support companies to push the boundaries of what’s possible there, but I think there will always be an important role for old-fashioned face-to-face conversations. And it will be a long time before the metaverse can match Austin’s tacos.
This post 5 takeaways from SXSW 2022: Web3, holograms, spatial audio, social justice, and tacos
was original published at “https://www.geekwire.com/2022/5-takeaways-from-sxsw-2022-web3-holograms-spatial-audio-social-justice-and-more/”