SXSW Interactive kicks off this Friday and in typical Fest fashion, it is already taking the internet by storm. With so much to see and do over its five-day span, weeding out the must-sees from the flash-in-the-pans can, for many, be the most daunting task they face that week. In an effort to help you make the most of this year’s annual geektopia, I’ve compiled a list of the Top 5 Keynotes and Expert Panels you can expect to keep hearing about for the rest of the year.
Ladies and gents, our little festival is growing up. This year marks the first in SXSW’s 30-year history that a sitting President and First Lady have participated in the event, and the Keynote Conversation with President Obama is arguably the most anticipated moment of the Interactive, Film or Music portions of this year’s festival. His conversation with CEO/Editor in Chief of The Texas Tribune Evan Smith will kick off the Interactive portion of the festival this Friday, March 11th, and will cover civic engagement in the 21st Century. Expect a good deal of audience participation at this one, as the President hopes to garner ideas from attendees about how we can best utilize ideas and talent to make technology work for us.
JJ Abrams and Andrew Jarecki
If any one single theme could be gleaned from this year’s fest, it would be convergence. Technology in music, technology in film, technology driving healthcare innovations… in the Interactive portion and beyond, it’s all about how technology is driving “the next big thing”. In keeping with this theme, filmmakers and tech innovators JJ Abrams and Andrew Jarecki will present “The Eyes of Robots and Murderers”, a conversation about the relevance of the human factor in digital communication. Expect a few never-before-seen clips of their work, as well as the introduction of KnowMe, a new mobile video platform that promises authentic self-expression.
Dr. Regina Dugan
The word Google itself has become synonymous with innovation. Last year’s panel with Astro Teller, head of Google’s mysterious X Labs, was easily a crowd favorite and featured topics that attendees are still talking about today. This year Google is sending us Dr. Regina Dugan, a vice president of Engineering, Advanced Technology and Projects at Google, to discuss the discipline of breakthrough innovation. Her featured Panel, “Making Epic Sh*t”, takes place Saturday March 12th and highlights the overwhelmingly positive effect of making things we actually believe in.
The Future of Transportation
Should learning about the future of transportation rank high on your list of topics, make sure and catch the Panels hosted by both Dirk Ahlborn and Anthony Foxx. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies CEO Dirk Ahlborn hosts a Panel on Sunday, March 13th to discuss Hyperloop as both a completely new transportation system and the revolutionary use of crowdsourcing to create an entirely new model for how companies can be made. Also on Sunday is a conversation with U. S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx centered around the notion of accelerating smart city innovation. Joining Secretary Foxx are five finalists from the first-of-its-kind Smart City Challenge, which seeks to create an innovative, fully integrated model city that uses data, technology and creativity to shape how people and goods move into the future.
The Future of Robotics
There are two must-see Panels on the future of robotics this year that should each provide a unique view of what is to come in the world of AI. The first takes place on Sunday, March 13th with Rodney Brooks, the chairman of Rethink Robotics and the former director of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab. Along with Newyorker.com editor Nick Thompson, the duo will discuss the real-world possibilities and limitations of robots as well as the effect that robots will soon have on our economy and personal lives. The other robot-themed panel I recommend attending takes place on Monday, March 14th with Senior Maverick at Wired and author of The Inevitable, Kevin Kelly. His discussion will address “12 Inevitable Tech Forces That Will Shape Our Future” and will focus heavily on understanding AI as an unstoppable force which is already in motion.
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