The South by Southwest (SXSW) music, film, culture and technology conference that began in Austin in 1987 draws more than 100,000 people each (non-pandemic) year. It’s so huge, with dozens of panels every day, music and comedy performances and screenings every night, that no two SXSW experiences are the same. If you have FOMO watching the social media posts fly by during SXSW (it’s called South by the residents), it’s actually even worse when you’re here. The panel you skipped to grab a bite to eat with an old friend just might end up being the best conversation on the show. You rely on serendipity and temporal judgments to guide you through a wealth of content and people and accept FOMO as inevitable.
I was on the jury of the sixteen world premiere XR Experiences competing for the grand prize, and I wrote about it in this story. I saw the winner, Consensus Gentium, on my smartphone a few days before I left for the show. The 20-minute film tells a story specific to our most intimate device, the smartphone, that could open up a whole new genre of entertainment.
Only a few badge holders get to see many XR experiences. The math of throughput and utilization means that the best exhibitors can only offer five turns per hour per seat. In three days, most badge holders can provide about 150 experiences for the thousands of people who walk through them each day. Every festival had this problem. SXSW can’t help it.
There was a lot of networking happening in the corridor outside the exhibition hall. This is where I came across Paul Raphaël from the renowned Felix & Paul studio, who creates award-winning commercial and artistic immersive XR experiences such as Space Explorers: The ISS Experience, Travel while Black And gymnasia. Paul handed me a Magic Leap 2 and gave me a confidential glimpse into an experience that began at Magic Leap in 2019, when they teamed up with the Henson company to pitch a fairy tale written by Simon Racioppa and narrated by Neil Gaiman. Delayed by issues at Magic Leap and interrupted by the pandemic, this is arguably the best work from the Montreal studio. I wish I could say more, but I’ve sworn to secrecy because they’re just now looking for distribution. That’s South-by serendipity.
The Shiba Inu Metaverse is the most highly anticipated project on Shibarium, Shiba Inu’s layer 2 technology, which saw its official beta launch last week. At the festival, the developers showed a close look at what the Unreal Engine 5 powered virtual world looks like. One demo was open world. The other was a group meditation session at the WAGMI (“We’re all going to make it”) Temple, the first of 11 hubs in the SHIB metaverse.
ASU’s New Graduate Program for Immersive Narrative, led by SXSW Lifetime Achievement Award winner Nonny de la Pena, hosted a party to celebrate the inaugural MA, Class of 2023. One of these graduate students, Cameron Kostonopolus, won a special jury prize in the competition.
Leia, an HP spin-off, used the expo at SXSW to showcase its new 3D lightfield tablet, the Lume Pad Tablet. Images literally jump off the page, appearing to float a foot in front of the 10.8-inch screen. The stereo cameras on the front of the pad provide eye tracking and also enable stereography, using a range of Leia branded apps such as Leia Cam, Leia Player, Leia Tube, Leia Stream, Leia Pix, the Lume tablet can convert both 2D images and video into 3D. This remarkable device has won a CES innovation award every year since the introduction of the Lume Pad in 2021.
Jerome Monceaux, founder and CEO of Enchanted Tools from Pasis, introduced me to a prototype of his new robot, Miroki. The humanoid robot – powered by AI (natch) – has a cute cartoon face, functional robot arms and fingers and is mounted on top of a BB8-like omnidirectional ball. Miroki will be ready in 2025 at a target price of $30,000.
I got to watch an encore of Miro Shot’s immersive concert produced by Ristband, the spin-off company that creates live events that take place simultaneously in VR and physical reality, where we can use Mixed Reality to interact with the Metaverse and the music at the same time. time to communicate. This year’s show used the new HTC Vive Elite HMD, which is just now being released. What they’ve done really pushes the boundaries – and this is just the beginning – I kind of missed the janky old Samsung Gear headsets they used last year. It was a bit of a mess, but much more rock n roll.
Since no two South-bys are alike, Ted Schilowitz and I swapped stories about the festival on our podcast yesterday, and interviewed Karen Palmer, producer and director of “Consensus Gentium,” a smartphone film that won first place for XR Experiences at SXSW, Cameron Kostopoulos, whose VR experience “Body of Mine” won the Special XR Jury Award, and Roman Rappak, whose Miro Shot performed a sold-out mixed reality concert in Austin.
Basically, here’s the SXSW I produced this week: