Good Thinking

Highlights from SXSW Interactive 2016

Highlights from SXSW Interacti...
Pepper the robot is now linked up with IBM's Watson artificial intelligence system
Pepper the robot is now linked up with IBM's Watson artificial intelligence system
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The INO V8 robot from the Innovation Alliance
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The INO V8 robot from the Innovation Alliance
Pepper the robot is now linked up with IBM's Watson artificial intelligence system
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Pepper the robot is now linked up with IBM's Watson artificial intelligence system
The Imperial Army was even represented at SXSW
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The Imperial Army was even represented at SXSW
A look at the Asteroid video game that was built into the side of the INO V8 robot, featured at the Innovation Alliance booth at the SXSW trade show
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A look at the Asteroid video game that was built into the side of the INO V8 robot, featured at the Innovation Alliance booth at the SXSW trade show
A smaller version of Pepper, the emotion-sensing robot, was at IBM's Cognitive Studio installation where he challenged visitors to a game of rock, paper, scissors
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A smaller version of Pepper, the emotion-sensing robot, was at IBM's Cognitive Studio installation where he challenged visitors to a game of rock, paper, scissors
At a GE exhibit, visitors were asked to walk through a glass cube featuring black balls hung closely together to give them a sense of how crowded our planet is getting
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At a GE exhibit, visitors were asked to walk through a glass cube featuring black balls hung closely together to give them a sense of how crowded our planet is getting
The balls turned to stips of reflective paper in the GE exhibit, which eventually opened up into a reception space where the company's eco-initiatives were highlighted
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The balls turned to stips of reflective paper in the GE exhibit, which eventually opened up into a reception space where the company's eco-initiatives were highlighted
Festival attendees could take a break at the Mood Media Lounge, where sights, sounds and scents cycled through the various elements such as fire, seen here
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Festival attendees could take a break at the Mood Media Lounge, where sights, sounds and scents cycled through the various elements such as fire, seen here
While there was plenty of virtual reality on display at SXSW, nothing really beat the Moveo VR simulator from app developers Krush
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While there was plenty of virtual reality on display at SXSW, nothing really beat the Moveo VR simulator from app developers Krush
Of all the big brand exhibits at SXSW, one towered above the rest -- this Ferris wheel and amusement park from the USA Network's breakout show, "Mr. Robot"
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Of all the big brand exhibits at SXSW, one towered above the rest -- this Ferris wheel and amusement park from the USA Network's breakout show, "Mr. Robot"
Bud Light took something of an old school approach with an exhibit that featured a keyboard that played a wall of empty beer bottles by blowing air into their holes
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Bud Light took something of an old school approach with an exhibit that featured a keyboard that played a wall of empty beer bottles by blowing air into their holes
Back at the IBM Cognitive Studio, visitors were asked to complete a profile about themselves before entering and could then enjoy the cocktail Watson thought was best at the Cognitive Cocktail Bar
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Back at the IBM Cognitive Studio, visitors were asked to complete a profile about themselves before entering and could then enjoy the cocktail Watson thought was best at the Cognitive Cocktail Bar
This tower of 256 Raspberry Pi processors was created by students at Virginia Tech to demonstrate the computing that goes on when a request is submitted to Google's search engine
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This tower of 256 Raspberry Pi processors was created by students at Virginia Tech to demonstrate the computing that goes on when a request is submitted to Google's search engine
One of the many outfits offering VR experiences was NASA, who took you the surface of Mars through an Oculus Rift headset
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One of the many outfits offering VR experiences was NASA, who took you the surface of Mars through an Oculus Rift headset
NASA also had the highly dexterous robot who might one day help us out in space called Robonaut 2 on hand for photo opps
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NASA also had the highly dexterous robot who might one day help us out in space called Robonaut 2 on hand for photo opps
At the Acquia booth on the trade show floor, performance art duo The Bumbys were typing up "fair and honest appraisals of your appearance," as they do
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At the Acquia booth on the trade show floor, performance art duo The Bumbys were typing up "fair and honest appraisals of your appearance," as they do
TV network AMC threw an upside down church into an empty lot to call attention to their show, "Preacher," which debuts on May 22
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TV network AMC threw an upside down church into an empty lot to call attention to their show, "Preacher," which debuts on May 22
The Urb-E took over one of the local bars one night to let people – some of whom really seemed to have enjoyed the free drinks – ride around on their lightweight electric scooters, which are now available to purchase
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The Urb-E took over one of the local bars one night to let people – some of whom really seemed to have enjoyed the free drinks – ride around on their lightweight electric scooters, which are now available to purchase

Now in its 30th year, the South By Southwest Interactive Festival fills the city of Austin Texas with all manner of gizmos, gadgets, exhibits, experiences, showcases and yes – traffic jams and epic lines. During the past week the town was an epicenter for all things tech, tackling complicated issues like privacy and gender equality in the digital space, and highlighting the more frivolous side of the equation with rock-paper-scissors-playing robots and giant Ferris wheels. President and First Lady Obama had keynote speeches that bookended the festival, marking the first time a sitting president had attended SXSW, and as usual – the big brands abounded. Naturally, Gizmag was on hand to soak it all up. Here are a few of the highlights in pictures.

The INO V8 robot from the Innovation Alliance
The INO V8 robot from the Innovation Alliance

Robots were everywhere at SXSW, but perhaps none were more impressive-looking than this behemoth on display from the Innovation Alliance. The Alliance advocates for upholding the current US patent system in the face of proposed legislation that could weaken it, and the standing of inventors who rely on it for their livelihood. As such, the robot (named INO-V8) was constructed from all American-made items from the past 200 years, but didn't really do all that much – though there was a vintage playable Asteroid game built into its side.

A smaller version of Pepper, the emotion-sensing robot, was at IBM's Cognitive Studio installation where he challenged visitors to a game of rock, paper, scissors
A smaller version of Pepper, the emotion-sensing robot, was at IBM's Cognitive Studio installation where he challenged visitors to a game of rock, paper, scissors

Another buzz-grabbing robot was Pepper, who welcomed visitors to the IBM Cognitive Studios exhibit. The emotion-sensing robot from Japanese tech firm SoftBank was hanging out at the IBM space because it was recently announced it would now integrate with IBM's Watson computer to get even better at recognizing and responding to human beings. There was also a small table-top version of Pepper onsite challenging humans to games of rock-paper-scissors. I trounced the snarky little hunk of metal, but other humans weren't so lucky.

The Imperial Army was even represented at SXSW
The Imperial Army was even represented at SXSW

Why yes, that is a giant First Order TIE fighter. The big beast of a model was installed next to the SXSW food park known as "SouthBites" and was built in relatively secrecy the night before the festival opened by prop-building group Project X1, featuring members from worldwide Star Wars fan-group, The 501st Legion. The TIE fighter exhibit was sponsored by Disney to call attention to the fact that it's releasing the Blu-ray disc of The Force Awakens. It was also, apparently, put on to make parents with kids stand in long lines in the blistering sun to get their pictures taken beneath the craft.

There were lots more pieces of eye candy to be had at SXSW, even if there weren't any major tech announcements like the much-missed years when Twitter (2007) and Foursquare (2009) burst on the scene at the festival. Continue the tour in our highlights gallery – no waiting in line required.

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