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SXSW 2018 - From Futuristic Product Designs to Design-thinking Approaches

Together with 12 other Rexlabs colleagues and investors, we visited a combination of over 28 different technology, music and design talks. As well as numerous product houses, product experiences, workshops, art installations, live music, parties and more. It was an incredible 10 day experience.




March 2018

I review the top talks I attended at South by Southwest® in Austin, Texas in 2018.

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Together with 12 other Rexlabs colleagues and investors, we visited a combination of over 28 different technology, music and design talks. As well as numerous product houses, product experiences, workshops, art installations, live music, parties and more. It was an incredible 10 day experience.

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#1 — Tech Trends

Amy Webb, Founder of Future of Today Institute

Download Tech Trends Report here

Takeaways from the talk:

Pay attention to trends inside and outside your industry. The trend might not be in your industry now, but it will in the future and it’s better to realise that earlier than later.

ICOs (Initial Coin Offering) are the new IPOs. 

The chairman of Uber is starting his own crypto company.

What’s trendy and what’s a real trend? Real trends are...

"Consider all trends to understand the future of individual trends."

Future of Today institute utilises pattern recognition to recognize trends, you can too, to recognise trends within your products.

Making connections between trends can produce valuable insights.

2018 is the beginning of the end of smartphones.

Smart glasses will be a thing.

"50% people will use voice by 2021."

Machine reading comprehension will improve with more direct, comprehensible answers.

Voiceprints will be used to read:

Thumbprints will subside over the next decade.

Face prints will become more comprehensive:

Measure signal of heart state from video of face or other exposed skin:

Generate predictive videos from images.

You can ‘Smile to pay’ in China. Alibaba.

China will Social shame people. I.e. when jaywalking it will post your profile on a billboard in that location, and shame you via your profile on social media.

ANI: artificial narrow intelligence. Does something simple, that a human would, very well.

NasNet: outperformed systems that were made by humans.

"Data is the next oil."

Companies and governments will find more value in mining data than anything else.

Biology is the most important platform of the century. (Crispr)

Biological DVR - record and store information about our cells as they age

Precision medicine.

Single stranded origami.

Plug and play nanomedicine.

Human cell atlas.

The stage where Amy Webb hosted the above talk about Tech Trends

#2 — Scaling Design Systems: Pixels to People

4 Panelists from Google, Airbnb, Microsoft and IBM

Takeaways from the talk:

Airbnb’s design system:

Considerations when building a design system

"Track and measure the health of your design system in order to evolve it."
The Google House during SXSW 2018

#3 — Facts, Truth, and Data Visualization

Scott Berinato of Harvard Business Review

Takeaways from the talk:

Data visualisation has become a common way for us to communicate and argue a point, however we need to keep in mind that data visualisation is often used as a tool to manipulate users perspective on what the data is saying.

"All data tells a story, but the designer chooses how to tell it."

Good data visualisation allows the user to see and feel the data in a way that educates the user and provides an unbiased perspective and doesn’t hide data or skew the perspective to serve the creators own interests.

"Facts aren’t the whole truth, they are just part of the truth."

The story behind the Takata engineer is an example of how all of the important data was presented, but it was presented in a misleading way that prevented stakeholders from realising the intensity of the story behind the data and caused a lot of people to lose their lives.

BellAir's innovation lab inside an airplane hanger during SXSW 2018

#4 — Leading for a Culture of Innovation & Creativity

David Aycan of IDEO

Takeaways from the talk:

1. Purpose

2. Looking Out

3. Experimentation

4. Collaboration

5. Empowerment

The Dell House at SXSW 2018

#5 — The Power of Ideas to Transform the World is Accelerating

Ray Kurzweil of Google

Takeaways from the talk:

"Computers will be inside our bodies, it’s already happened."

You want to remove bias but also not censor it too much.

What if one person is couragous, intelligent and compassionate enough to change the world. What if we thought like Danielle, to positively impact the world.

A chronically of ideas. 

Augmented intelligence

Neocortex - site and hearing.

Synthetic neocortex in the cloud, that will connect to our neocortex in the human body.

We’ll become a hybrid of biological and non biological neocortex.

Augmented creativity.


Being empathetic is the cutting edge of human intelligence. (When comparing to ai)

"Nanotechnology - in the bloodstream, extend the immune system, extend intelligence."

Fundamentally AI learns from humans. There are efforts to try to correct biases that occur in software. It is an ongoing issue. it’s the same thing with a child. A child learns from the people around him or her, and the role of education is to provide the values that we espouse in society. 

"Agriculture is on the brink of a big change with vertical agriculture and meatless farming."

Agriculture and transportation are going to change a lot, but also AR and VR is going to have a big impact. We’re going to be able to do everything we do when we are physically together without needing to be physically present.

3D printing will really get interesting. We will be increasingly able to create the physical things we need.

Full transcript of the conversation here.

YouTube House at SXSW 2018

#6 — From AI to EI: Empathy is the New Tech Superpower

5 Panelists from IPG, Barcelona Technology School, OpenMarket, The Empathy Business & Techfugees

Takeaways from the talk:

The more we are connected digitally the less we are in life.

Empathetic interactions.

The environment you’re in depicts how much empathy you’re exposed to.

Everyone has a different amount of empathy. 

Empathy without ethics is empty empathy that can be used for negative, unauthentic uses.

Empathy is about understanding what the user is doing and adapting to it. i.e. utilizing the platforms they are already using, instead of adding another layer to an already complex world.

Provide meaning through: 

The power of silence. Disconnect to reconnect with yourself. Then new things will arise. Recognizing and activating the frontal cortex.

Collaboration, agile, working together, active learning, innovating, connecting to the user’s and creating meaning.

Experience more in the real world 🌎 

UX is a frame of mind.

A great UX Designer is like a great actor / actress.

"$1 invested in UX $100 return."

Respondents were strongly tied to an emotional response after viewing the VR.

VR tool to show the suffering of others.

"AI can help us remove our human biases."

Making sure the AI isn’t coded with biases, and imbed ethics into the AI.

#7 — Animation in UX: Subconscious Influence of Motion

Katie Swindler UX Strategist of Allstate

Takeaways from the talk:

Conference calls miss all of the queues of a good interaction.

Animation with purpose vs animation with personality.

"Using motion to convey stories within a user’s journey, convey character and personality."

For purpose:

Less motivation and more difficult = failure

More motivation and more ease = success

Animation can create clearer communication:

"Use animation to reduce mental clutter."

Perception of speed:

Creating a narrative:

***have something flashing for more than 3 seconds you could cause damaging effects***

“Brand is a decision making tool” - Vin Reed, brand strategist

Bring branding traits into animation.

I.e. confident, down to earth, smart, helpful, expert, informal (but not slipping), simple declarative, clean.

Keep animation on brand.

Nike animation = fast, moving forward, speedy, 

Movement like a Houston Ballerina = precise, smooth, landed.

Human-like interactions = fluid, yet imperfect, rhythmic, slightly halted, moment of recognition.

Respected interactions = slow, timely, very contextual (sometimes slow, sometimes fast and auctioning)

Animating the building of the user’s home to visualize their progress and confirms their decisions. More emotionally attached to the form.

Pick a real problem to solve that contributes to a business objective.

Play to animations strengths.

Weighted shortest job first.

#8 — Tech & Humanity, Embedding Empathy in Experience

Jon Wilkins from Karmarama 

Takeaways from the talk:

"Technology second, humanity first."

More Notes

Official SXSW 2018 Notebook — Here you can find content captured by Evernote’s team of note-takers.

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Applications Used