The annual music and tech festival took place this past weeked in its hometown of Austin, Texas. Everyone from Elon Musk and Steven Spielberg to The Roots were in attendance for what is a simultaneously boozy and intellectual affair. Below are our top five picks for best exhibits in each category.
Art: HBO builds a replica of Westworld’s Sweetwater town
Arguably the highlight of SXSW, the Sci-Fi park took a 40-person crew five weeks to create. Over 60 actors played off a 444-page script and interacted with guests while never breaking character. The activation served as a teaser to the show’s second season, debuting in late April. Visitors were encouraged to discover interactive clues and hints, appropriate for a show that makes regular use of plot twists and mystery.
Activism: Land O’Lakes’ The Food Effect
Land O’Lakes used their SXSW real estate for a pretty noble cause: food education. This interactive exhibit educates visitors on the challenges and opportunities of modern food production, while fostering conversations between consumers, farmers, and scientists. Among the many installations, The Food Effect featured a wall of telephones where guests could listen to stories from people who suffer from hunger, with a meal donated to Feeding America for every story heard.
Film: Vimeo celebrates 10 years of storytelling with The Decade
This pop-up theater is dedicated to the best Staff Picks of the last decade. Moving movie posters and immersive screening rooms take you inside the films for an unparalleled screening experience. Highlights include lighthearted pieces from Marcel the Shell to an intimate look inside Jim Carrey’s painters studio.
Music: Sony’s Lost in Music
SXSW saw the perfect union of music and art with Sony Music’s artist showcase, “Lost in Music.” The weeklong event was remarkable on two fronts. In order to access the performance space called the “Dreamscape,” you don Playstation VR headsets and enter an acoustic vessel they call “The Odyssey.” The spatial audio experience uses 576 speakers and a custom light installations to create music you can feel. Secondly, the activation debuted Khalid’s “Young, Dumb and Broke” music video, the first music video to use VR projection mapping technology, a fancy way of saying you can project the music video on surfaces inside the video itself.
Tech: Women in Tech
So, there was obviously no shortage of innovative uses of tech across music, art, and film at SXSW. VR and AR are still going strong but the most buzzed about topic was women in tech. Given this *eventful* year, the momentum of the women’s empowerment movement took center stage. Speakers were evenly split among men and women (unlike at other tech fairs) with Melinda Gates giving an interactive keynote on the Time’s Up movement. Bumble dating app, which has a female CEO and an all-female exec team, built a Bumble “house” that focused on empowering women in their relationships, friendships, and careers with activations including a business concept pitching exercise. All of these initiatives serve to garner attention for female entrepreneurs and crack that glass ceiling just a little bit more.
Photo credits: Daniil Kuzelev (top post) and Age of Robots Magazine (bottom post)