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Innovation Abounds at SXSW

Brian Corn

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SXSW 2013

As in previous years, Intouch Solutions sent an interdisciplinary team to SXSW Interactive to learn and possibly gain new insights from the innovators that speak and the broad range of content presented. These are our stories (insert Law and Order theme here).

Our team arrived early on Thursday to get a jump on checking in, getting badges, etc. After securing the rental car, the iOS vs. Android religious war began. I proudly, perhaps too proudly, stated out loud that I was still pretty fond of the new iOS Maps app that replaced the previous native app provided by Google - never having been misguided as I had been with dedicated GPS devices in the past. So, when Marty, our VP of Creative Services and driver, asked for directions to the hotel, I plugged in the address from the SXSW app on my iPhone and let Siri play navigator. To my dismay, she steered us wrong and we ended up on the opposite end of Austin. I double checked the address but iOS Maps was still adamant that we were in the correct location. Drew, our Account Manager and Android evangelist, proceeded to save the day with his Android phone. Needless to say, I felt somewhat betrayed by my iPhone, and since moved the iOS Maps app to the last home screen on my phone!

But enough about my device challenges. Let’s talk about the experiences on Friday and Saturday at SXSW.

One thing I quickly noticed was the interweaving of several concepts and areas we have been discussing at Intouch both in internal and client conversations. No big a-ha moment there, but the way in which these ideas are becoming stitched together, by necessity to some degree, is really incredible.

There is no more mobile - it just is

Obviously, mobile is beyond ubiquitous and this has been extremely apparent at SXSW this year. I find it pretty wild to think back to SXSW 2007 when I attended the music conference for an entertainment related start-up I co-founded. Back then, there were no mobile components. That was only six years ago!

Today, every single session has integrated mobile at the forefront of the conversation if not the title of the session or panel. I predict that by SXSW Interactive 2015, mobile will be wiped from our lexicon - because mobile will just be. What does this mean to Intouch and our clients? Maybe it’s time to retire "mobile" and just focus on "engagement," as in Engagement Strategy.

The best tech is the tech that is not tech

Michael Buckwald and David Holz of Leap Motion on Saturday. Michael looks like a less tiger blood-infested Charlie Sheen and sounds exactly like Bill Gates. David looks like a red-headed Art Garfunkel and sounds exactly like the excited 24 year-old he is. Yes, they are both 24 years old and incredibly talented.

If you’re not familiar with Leap Motion, they have created a sensor device that recognizes and responds to natural hand movements as an input mechanism for a computer, plain and simple. The device takes advantage of actions that are incredibly complex (i.e., picking up an object) yet incredibly intuitive for the human body. We do these things all the time with virtually 100% success. So, why do we constantly design a new "language" of interaction for electronic systems, be it mice, keyboards, touch screens, gestures, etc.? They argue that the best technology is the technology you do not see. Simple, but ingenious. Imagine the applications for our clients - nurse-to-patient instruction, injection instruction, etc. Now couple this with mobile (or engagement strategy) with the advent of passive sensors, machine to machine (M2M) communication, insulin trackers in the body, etc. Whew, the engagement possibilities are endless when you hide the tech!

Fear of failure is not an excuse to not innovate

Brad Frost talked about adaptive and responsive web design. I won’t go into much of the details of his talk, but he did sneak in some great thoughts in general about innovation. Here’s a quote from good old Ben Franklin that he re-iterated (probably paraphrased).

"When you’re finished changing you’re finished!"

We have to find ways to experiment with and on behalf of our clients. We’ll dig into more trends in tech and other areas as the week progresses, but the need to try things without the nagging fear of failure is a common thread here at SXSW Interactive 2013. Try breaking a big budget into smaller buckets to test out various tactics or ideas before committing to a larger direction. Consider more partnering with organizations or groups that have specific skills we do NOT have to learn about how those skills might fit within our offerings. Prototype, prototype, prototype. The ways to approach innovation are as endless as innovation itself. To me, the point is clear. Never stop innovating!

I’ll stop there for now, but stay tuned for our next adventure.

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