My First Experience at SXSW

I’ve never been to Austin, and I’ve never been to SXSW. I had some preconceptions that it was going to be wild and crazy with tons of people around and that I would always be talking to someone new and meeting everyone around me. That was mostly true, but maybe not as wild as I initially thought. Here’s me just noting my experiences and other things.

  1. If I could put a subtitle to SXSW 2016 it would be: VR is coming and it’s coming quick. It felt like everywhere I went (besides the panels and talks) there was a headset somehow in my face for me to try on. I couldn’t get them off me! Luckily I was so interested in them that I was happy to try every VR experience I could (shoutout to Samsung, McDonald’s, a couple start ups from other countries that I apologize to for not having your business cards anymore, Gillette, Dell, SAP, and many many more.)
  2. B.J. Fogg’s influence in user experience and design is major. His work is referenced in so many talks about decision making and user’s ability to make those decisions. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to meet him personally and show some of my work to him and hear him speak twice about habit forming as tiny behaviors that lead to big impact.
  3. ADOBE COMET IS HERE. I’M SO EXCITED. Well, I guess now it’s xD. But let’s gooooooo!!!
  4. Bots, AI, and anything that a person interacts with has to be conversational. Our language is what is easiest for us to understand and interact with one another. Why should it be different for an application or for a website or for a VR? We shouldn’t need to shift our language to meet that of what we’re trying to use. This’ll be important for children growing up with things like Siri. Or for those kids who immediately text when they first get a phone. Can our apps respond to us replying back and come back with an answer? Can our tech understand us when we speak to them like we would a friend?
  5. We’re mediated in our actions with common softwares and apps and services today. We write emails and we think about what we’re about to write. In person, we’re immediate. We reply back instantly. *Possibly* thinking a bit of what we’re about to say, but without the ability to edit it before sending it off to the person listening. With VR and other technologies coming back, we’re going to break through that and become more and more immediate. How can we respond back quickly and create something that is agreeable with the human’s expectation of what should happen and at what rate if the VR is supposed to be literally, a virtual REALITY. Timing is going to be everything in the VR interaction space.
  6. We’re doing a lot of things “wrong”. Or so they tell me. But how do we know what’s right? It’s always changing and updating and people are growing, trends shift, etc. Meh. Whatever, we’re all learning anyways.
  7. Smartwatches might be standalone and not need cells attached to them. That’s pretty neat.
  8. What about people with disabilities? IBM Cognitive Studio had a space dedicated to showing designers and developers the difficulties that older generations or individuals with certain disabilities have when looking at or handling devices. How can we be more adaptive in what we build so that everyone not just the common denominator can use our devices and our apps?
  9. Touch and smell are … mayyyybee coming up? We have the visual (almost) down with VR headsets. We can be taken into these worlds. I can go to Petra. But am I in Petra? Where’s the heat I would feel on my face? What does this rock feel like? Can I brush my hand on the fabrics around me? Where’s the desert smell I expect to have? Touch and smell are two inherent biologically driven experiences we intuitively have as human beings. Leveraging them in our tech space interactions will be really interesting.
  10. Data viz is hard. VR could make it easier for people to immerse themselves in data and literally walk through the data points in a 3D space to fully understand the data but it’ll still depend on how the data is coded to look (I think). There’s some interesting UX that could be done here. How do people expect or most often visualize certain types of data? Is there a common denominator where we can say for this type of data, people most often visualize it in a certain way and find it easiest to sift through the 3D visualization of it? Can customized individual visualization be within a VR space?
  11. SXSW is focused on VR for good with no real answers or predictions on the dark side of VR. Maybe it’s because it’s so new and we can’t predict that. I mean, who could have told us that creating a mobile phone with texting would lead to the dangers of texting and driving? What’s the VR equivalent of this? Nobody knows.
  12. VR is considered the ultimate empathy machine where we can place ourselves almost literally in the shoes of another. We can experience the life of another person right in our headsets. We can be in Syria when a bomb goes off and experience what that would be like. We can be in the room when a house gets intruded in and feel that fear that we would feel if that actually happened to us. It’s scary. Are we even ready to experience all of this? So many of us are happy in our own removed worlds. Yet, we’re curious. We’ll watch and maybe going into it we won’t know what we’re getting into and after watching we could be sickened or scared or any type of other emotion that is a MANUFACTURED emotion. There will be people whose jobs it is to create these experiences to make a person feel a certain way. We do it with UX to try to delight. With VR the possibilities are endless. We can produce sadness, joy, fear, and so much more. That kind of scares and excites me.
  13. My friend thinks Nir Eyal is hot.
  14. I hate. Lines. I never want to wait in a line again! When you’re there, talk to someone who might know someone who might know someone else etc. We waited for 3 hours in line for MashBash and it was terrrriiibbbleee. I learned it’s better to go small venues, small places but that still have open bar. Go on Twitter and follow the accounts that will tell you the status of lines and parties and drinks and food.
  15. Meet everyone you can. The best part of it all for me is meeting people and being surrounded by people who care so much about what they do and we’re all there for the same reason. To meet and talk and get insights that you wouldn’t know otherwise. And I don’t know maybe you’ll find a girl who changes your mind on something you thought was right for years and years. Or maybe you’ll run into that guy who tells you his experiences getting to where he is and now he’s head of a department after years of struggling. You’ll say hello to the woman who is your same age but she has her own company and she inspires you by just listening to her talk. And so so many more people that just make you want to do more.

Overall, my experience at SXSW Interactive 2016 was a good one. It gave me a sort of validation that I’m in the right field because it’s what I live for and what drives me and what I’m passionate about it. I knew that before, but I REALLY know it now. I’m terribly depressed it’s over, but I can say that I think I’m a better person for going. I got on my return flight feeling inspired to create everything I could. To immerse myself in everything that interests me. To be a better user experience designer. To actually do things with my time that matter to me. To be part of something bigger and better. To be a better version of myself.

’Til next time SX. Thank you for all the memories.

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