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Eight Innovative Ideas Direct from Austin

From meditation bots to telescopes so powerful they make images from the Hubble look like they’ve been taken through a pinhole, South by Southwest 2017 was it’s usual mind-blowing convergence of all thing interactive, music and film. Orange Line Directors David Einstein and David Klein hit the streets of Austin to soak up as much tech, innovation and southern BBQ as possible during the nine day bonanza. Here are some of the big takeaways.

SXSW Conference speakers come from all over the globe and discuss a vast range of topics. Which one has lingered in your mind?

We heard about 150 micro satellites that have been launched into the atmosphere. At approximately the size of shoeboxes, they can take an image of the world as detailed as those from Google Maps every day. This data is now publically available, which is tremendously exciting. Historically, satellite based analysis was limited due to the update frequency. You need to have the data available fast enough to correct/change things.

With this new technology you can see cargo moving across the world, progress on major construction, deforestation of the Amazon all in real time.

Key takeaway: Satellite imagery data is now available to all in real time.

Were there any transformative ideas you are looking forward to implementing at Orange Line?

To be able to get a bird’s eye view on major cities in real time (thanks to the satellites mentioned above) has real potential for our business. For example we’ll now be able to track shopping patterns, cargo movements etc. Gone are the days of guys with tickers monitoring the movements of people, now it’s automated and available to all. It’s new information people haven’t been able to use before. It opens up a different dimension to enable us to get insights and be a bit more creative with the data that’s now available.

Key takeaway: Trends in global movements allow businesses to get more creative with data.

What examples of technology blew your mind?

It was truly mind-blowing to witness android robots having a conversation with a journalist about the value of human life. The conversation was in no way scripted, as engineers have now created pathways that replicate those found in the human brain. As the conversation continued they showed the neural network required to discuss two points of view and find common ground.

Key takeaway: Bots draw ever closer to functioning on same plane as humans.

Of all the startups/innovations you saw which do you think will be the ones to watch?

We saw huge developments in virtual reality, especially in the realm of team-based VR where you could physically and verbally interact with your peers. We’re now reaching the point with VR games where for the first time that the wider public is taking it seriously and accepting it as part of our society.

A lot is focused on games at the moment, but it will be easily applicable to everything. The possibilities are endless for business: virtual casinos, shopping and even for inspecting and purchasing real estate.

Key takeaway: VR offers endless applications for business.

Did any digital pain points come up in conversation?

It was interesting to hear psychologists talk about the new ethical dilemmas being posed by the VR and AR technology. The risk of post-traumatic stress syndrome is very real. One example could be when you experience something traumatic during a game: if a friend of yours is realistically shot for example. In this scenario, you are feeling very real emotions of what it’s like to be in that scenario. The question being asked is, ‘how do you regulate against the dark stuff that might be happening out there?’

Another psychological risk comes from simply playing AR/VR games for hours on end. It’s hard to readjust back to reality… (David Einstein speaks from experience)

Key takeaway: The risk of PTS is real when it comes to virtual reality.

What were the most popular events in the program?

For most of the keynote speakers you had to line up for hours. Bob Odenkirk, Buzz Aldrin and David Lynch all drew the crowds. There’s a component of being star struck at an event like this, but with such a packed agenda you also have to recognise that what they’re saying may not be the most relevant.

Even the things that seem to be directly related to your line of business aren’t necessarily the most helpful. The real value comes from taking things in laterally; from connecting the dots and drawing your own conclusions. That’s when the magic happens. The exhibition hall was the best we’ve ever seen in terms of the commercialisation of the technologies available.

Key takeaway: Don’t be drawn in by the superstars, keep your mind open to lateral experiences that will add value.

Do you have a standout memory from your time in Austin?

The pitch sessions were definitely the stand out. Most of the startups were quite established already and really had some impressive technology to show off. One of our favourite pieces of software was developed in Cambridge and created custom music. The user sets the parameters, such as style, length and timing of climax, they want to hear and the software pairs up notes and bars to produce a bespoke piece.

The beauty of SxSW is that there’s so many areas of interest explored that there’s something for everyone. The best way to experience the conference is to walk around, take things in and meet interesting people to share knowledge and experiences. Attending SxSW allows us to take stock of everything that’s happening in the world and bring it back to implement here.

Key takeaway: Events like SxSW are invaluable in taking stock of what is happening in the tech world to bring back to Australia.

Was there a key message you could take away from the event?

‘Democratisation’ was the buzzword of the event. Even though the word itself is annoying, it’s a sign how accessible everything is becoming: tech, data, consumables, experiences. Barriers to what was previously unattainable have been lowered.

This year was leaps and bounds ahead of last year, which makes us excited about what’s to come in 2018. We’re now in a time that’s beyond Moore’s Law in terms of the speed of development. It’s an exciting time to be at the forefront of digital.

Key takeaway: Everything is more accessible to the masses as barriers lower. Expect to see rapid innovation in the world of tech, data, consumables and experiences.

Directors David Klein and David Einstein