Greetings from SXSW 2018!

Greetings from SXSW 2018!

SXSW, or South By Southwest, is an annual festival and conference in Austin, Texas. For ten days, the city turns into a hotbed of culture and technology. Every year, SXSW allows its attendees a glimpse into the future. Like every year, we sent some of our frogs to Austin, along with a few colleagues from Oxyma

Let’s talk to Sam, our head of innovation, and Daantje, our head of validation, to see what they think of their time at SXSW.

Hi frogs! This is your first time at SXSW. How does the festival live up to your expectations?

Daantje: "It’s overwhelming! So much to see, hear, do. It’s an amazing, immersive experience and you see people from all over the world. People with the same mindset, eager to absorb lots of information. It's great to hear about the latest trends and technology while you are sitting in the most expensive hotels in the US: Four Seasons, Hilton, Mariott, Fairmont…"

The Austin skyline

Sam: "It’s hard to describe what it’s like here. I was expecting a few good talks and good insights, but it turns out that you can have multiple good sessions in a row, every day. The trick is picking the right sessions."

What do you do on a typical day at SXSW?

Daantje: "You start with a good breakfast, with your smartphone next to you, to go through the program of the day. Back home, I had already favorited some sessions, but you still have to choose out of that list."

Sam: "Sessions take roughly an hour. Then, you have about 30 minutes to get to your next session, which might be a few minutes biking away. The program doesn’t have a lunch break, other than the 30 minutes you get for relocating and queuing for the next session."

Daantje: "Having lunch is actually a ‘waste of time’ because you will miss out on one session."


Sam: "The sessions end at 18:00, which is a good moment to get together with our colleagues. Over a drink and some food, we digest the things we heard."

Daantje: "Dinner is fun because there are lots of food trucks and you're in the middle of the entertainment and music area, with many bars and restaurants."

Daantje, earlier this year, you wrote about the major trends for 2018: mobile payments, privacy, augmented reality, and voice assistants. How are those themes represented at SXSW?

Daantje: "Privacy in the sense of the new GDPR legislation we have in Europe isn’t a big theme here. Some US speakers mentioned it, but the US has different laws. Privacy was mentioned in the context of building a smart city, like Amazon is planning to. They will collect data, but the question is who will be the owner of that data."

"Mobile payments in the Netherlands are way behind other markets. In the US, people can already use Apple Pay. I also bought a book in the Amazon bookstore and paid with the Amazon app by scanning a QR code at the cash register. In China, people have already been living without a wallet with them for four years. They only carry a mobile phone and pay for the subway via facial recognition. That’s amazingly cool! I hope we can really kick it off in the Netherlands this year."

In China, people pay for the subway via facial recognition.

"AR and VR were also favorite topics, but they are still in the development phase. We've learned from the first wave, and we're now entering the second wave to get it out there. The use cases are still limited, but it's nice to see that devices are getting better and cheaper so they are available to the masses."

"Voice assistants were very popular too. There were lots of sessions, especially about the voice user interface. We should help people learn to talk to our voice assistants in the right way. Otherwise, they'll be disappointed, and they'll blame the assistants for being useless. Instead, we should be giving the assistant the chance to learn. The shift from mobile-first to voice-first will kick off in the Netherlands when Google Home enters the Dutch market, sometime this summer."

A crowded session at SXSW

A crowded session at SXSW

Sam, you’re head of innovation at aFrogleap. What’s the most innovative thing you’ve seen so far?

Sam: "That is a hard question. There is lots of confirmation that we’re doing the right things at aFrogleap. The knowledge level we have is on par with the people I see on stage here. So work-wise, I'm getting the confirmation that we're spot on with our conversational efforts and level of understanding."

"There is a lot about AI too, but much of it is still either small or abstract. The most interesting thing, though, was the session on Cyborgs. That may sound rather sci-fi, but it was very thought-provoking. The talk was about rights for cyborgs and how we should start having a conversation about that. The people here are way ahead of their time."

How will what you’ve seen at SXSW inspire your work back home?

Sam: "It will help me express developments to clients who are facing issues, or to those want to start exploring AI and conversational opportunities.

Daantje: This will definitely impact my work. I got a new and refreshing mindset about AI, natural language, voice assistants, voice interfaces, AR, VR, smart cities, the future of interaction, flying cars, and facial recognition.

Sam: "I feel that we now have even more examples, metaphors and scenarios to help clients see the new opportunities these technologies offer."

Daantje: "Yeah, these SXSW insights will definitely come back in the output of our Product Design Sprints, in which we help our clients think with an innovative mindset."

Finally, would you like to go again next year?

Sam: "Most certainly, yes!"

Daantje: "Hell yeah! No doubt about it!"