A celebration of the convergence of tech, film, music education and culture, South by Southwest (SXSW) returned to Austin, Texas, as a hybrid event for the first time in three years.
Featuring informative in-person and virtual sessions, film screenings, exhibitions and a variety of networking and professional development opportunities, this year’s event was a little smaller than the 2019 iteration, but narrowing in on which sessions to attend remained challenging due to the vast amount of incredible conference content available for consumption.
If you missed SXSW 2022 and are curious about this year’s trends and highlights, we have compiled a list of some of the most prominent ideas discussed during technology-focused sessions. Check it out!
Web3 is Coming!
Web3 is an idea that encompasses the future of the internet and a decentralized structure that focuses on removing monopolistic control. Built using blockchains — the shared ledger systems used by cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum — Web3 empowers anyone to be a creator who can ultimately produce and collect digital goods and have a stake in content.
With the idea for a new iteration of the worldwide web based on blockchain technology gaining steam, innovative new platforms, mediums and technologies are emerging to disrupt the way we engage with customers and tell brand stories. As we continuously realign our approach, we can learn incredible lessons from the successful campaigns of the past and apply those concepts to create relevant and meaningful marketing with the new and available tools at our disposal.
The Rise of NFTs
If you’ve scrolled through Twitter recently, you’ve probably seen a plethora of cartoon apes, lions and zombies. These new profile pictures are unique NFTs verified as new digital identities. Now you might be wondering: What the heck is an NFT? NFT stands for “non-fungible token,” which is a unique and non-interchangeable digital item stored on a blockchain.
NFTs leverage blockchain technology to mint “unique” versions of digital artwork, sports memorabilia, famous photographs and any other file that can be digitized — from a photo to a video to audio and beyond. Through a mix of visual media and presentations, the collection of NFTs touches on themes including cultural identity, evolving trends in digital creation, moving images as a narrative tool and animation. Once a user is done with the NFT, they can resell it, and the creator gets paid every time a transaction is made.
At this year’s event, SXSW minted its first-ever NFT, and the community was provided the ability to tokenize their work using Blockchain Creative Labs' technology. All of the hype surrounding NFTs begs the question: Could NFTs be the future of content distribution?
What’s in a Metaverse?
When Facebook announced in October that it would be changing its corporate name to Meta Platforms, the company discussed its ambitious R&D effort, which — if successful — would result in an immersive version of the internet accessed via virtual-reality headsets, augmented reality glasses, phone apps or other devices — the metaverse. And the concept of the metaverse stole the show at SXSW 2022, with upwards of 50 events related to the new ecosystem.
However, Meta is not alone in its ambition to sort of bring the internet to life — Epic Games and Nvidia have both announced plans to build their own versions of a metaverse, but who else is building, or has built, a metaverse? What technologies are required? On which platforms — AR, VR, mobile — will these virtual, social spaces manifest, when and how? We may soon have answers to all of these questions, but today's metaverse is quickly becoming a crucible for new types of political, financial and social experiments as virtual worlds with functioning economies and massive communities arise seemingly overnight. Soon, experimenting with new social contracts will be as easy as testing ad copy. While the mobile revolution taught us the boundaries between physical and digital are porous, the metaverse could ensure they disappear completely. What could that mean for the future of business?
No Code, No Worries
No-code development platforms are increasing in popularity since they help programmers and nonprogrammers alike build application software — without actually coding. No-code platforms provide a type of visual learning designed to speed development because developers don’t need to learn a programming language or coding scripts — instead of using pre-built templates — to create the software they need.
This trend was also the title of one of our favorite SXSW sessions, which included a panel discussion among no-code rival giants competing to offer development platforms for developers that lack coding skills, Webflow and Zapier. The engaging panel discussion delved into how using no-code may be simpler but still requires engineering know-how for successful implementation. The panelists also discussed Halo Cars, which was entirely built upon a no-code platform, being so successful that it was acquired by Lyft, as well as how Zapier and Webflow are collaborating to advance no-code technology and expand it into a wide variety of applications. Other note-worthy no-code platforms include Retool, Creatio and Microsoft Power Apps. Many experts will argue the future of software will be built on a no-code platform, but the technology still has its limits. Only time will tell.
The Machines are Learning
The pandemic has impacted our lives in countless ways. Another way is through the data used for training machine learning models. Somewhat unsurprisingly, algorithms trained on pre-pandemic data failed miserably when predicting outcomes based on data generated during the pandemic and beyond.
During one intriguing session, Valkyrie discussed this very challenge, emphasizing the need for reinforcement learning and data-centric models that evaluate the quality of data while conducting training or performing forecasting functions. As we continue down this artificially intelligent path, two things will take on increased importance:
- Machine learning experts are capable of adjusting the training and operations parameters on a context-sensitive basis to build models that represent real and practical data.
- Leveraging MLOps frameworks to ensure ML models are learning from incoming data while conducting their main prediction tasks.
Humans are Learning Too!
Finally, in another excellent session, The Untapped Opportunity of Learning Platforms, the presenters discussed a new paradigm for learning platforms that create new knowledge and don’t just share existing knowledge. These newfangled learning platforms accelerate learning by creating groups that compete, support and challenge each other (which reminded us of Kaggle) to create more impactful solutions.
In addition to accelerating learning, these platforms would also help participants to overcome their fears by asking others questions. Consider SAP’s online platform as an example of how a platform can evolve as more questions are answered, similar to Stack Overflow, providing unique access to otherwise difficult-to-obtain knowledge.
While some might believe that these emerging tech trends predict a grim future, we are not so despairing. It’s not difficult to believe Web3 will open the door to an entirely new world of consumer engagement; NFTs might hold the key to the future of content marketing; the power of the metaverse can be harnessed to deliver enthralling new user experiences; no-code development will streamline the future of software; machine learning algorithms will continue to improve myriad aspects of our daily lives, and innovative new learning platforms will make us all smarter.
At Solwey Consulting, we understand tech trends and can leverage innovative solutions to meet you where you are — and elevate your business.