Gear Seven/Arc Studios/Shift
Wake The Town
Contemplative Reptile
  • International Edition
  • USA Edition
  • UK Edition
  • Australian Edition
  • Canadian Edition
  • Irish Edition
  • German Edition
  • French Edition
  • Singapore Edition
  • Spanish edition
  • Polish edition
  • Indian Edition
  • Middle East edition
  • South African Edition

What We Heard in SXSW: AI, AR and Culture


We Are Social's Simon Richings, Garrett Dearey and Jim Coleman on what caught their attention at this year's festival

What We Heard in SXSW: AI, AR and Culture

What were some of the biggest themes emerging from SXSW 2023? We Are Social were on the ground in Texas listening to the biggest talks - here’s what caught their attention. 

Even the AI inventors don’t know what their creations can do

Simon Richings, UK Executive Creative Director 

This theme came out strongly in a number of talks – sometimes deliberately, sometimes accidentally. 

In most cases the subject or idea of a talk may have been submitted to SXSW before ChatGPT, before the latest, jaw-dropping updates to Midjourney, before the big tech AI gold rush that happened over the last couple of months. So, that would have had some speakers scrambling to update their content as the future accelerated past them. 

This was unexpectedly emphasised when I heard some very smart, very charismatic journalists confidently state that AI would only help with their background tasks, and not write articles in their entirety. Then when the Q&A began, a nervous man from a small local newspaper stood up and asked what the panel thought about his own team’s process – they write the headlines, ask the AI to write the article, then the humans fact-check. There was an awkward silence from the NY Times and BBC journalists. 

Everybody is making the rules up as they go along, and the game changes every 15 minutes.

Fast vs Slow Culture 

Garrett Dearey, Global Head of Growth  

Away from the heavy percussion of AI that reverberated around SX, beating out prophecies of doom and obsolescence to empowerment and being on the edge of a brave new world, were the bass notes of culture. They were omnipresent in each of the multiple tracks of the entire festival. Culture and a brand's desire to be part of it is nothing new, so was the fixation justified? 

Well, yes as culture is now being driven like never before by high velocity social and high calibre creators whose song sheet is compartmentalised vignettes that are inherently ephemeral in nature. What was interesting was the polarisation of speakers as to a brands ability, and genuine value, in catching these moments. 

TikTok's HO Global Commercial Partnerships was of the view that being faster and more agile will enable a brand to get on these fleeting trends. Meanwhile, the Head of Foresight at Reddit, was clear in his opinion that while staying in sync with the zeitgeist is critical, it’s impossible to keep up and that chasing these trends is futile. 

The takeaway from this - and multitude of views in between - is be thoughtful, be strategically clear, avoid following transient trends and engage instead with slower-moving yet more meaningful movements, to give your brand a chance to resonate within culture. 

AR hardware catches up with the vision 

Jim Coleman, UK CEO 

AR hardware seems to have finally caught up with the vision for the technology. Optiv’s John Tsangaris described AR as a “transitionary technology that will allow people to move between the digital and physical worlds really seamlessly”. Niantic (the business behind Pokemon Go) was showcasing a live example of their new NBA All-World AR game that lets gamers compete against current NBA players in their communities. While the metaverse cynics are still vocal, AR’s progress now allows brands to focus on storytelling and creating the best possible immersive experiences, rather than leading with the tech. 

A perfect example of how AR is playing out in real life (so to speak) was showcased in the talk ‘Animation’s New Horizon: The Real-Time Revolution’. Nexus Studios’ Pablo Colapinto shared an amazing augmented reality project made for Google, where the streets of New York and London were transformed into stages for a performance of Skinny Ape by the band Gorillaz. If you haven't seen this, check it out on YouTube.

view more - Trends and Insight
Sign up to our newsletters and stay up to date with the best work and breaking ad news from around the world.
We Are Social UK, Mon, 27 Mar 2023 15:51:00 GMT