Torch Takes Over Austin: A SXSW 2016 Preview
It is finally time, my friends. We have spent hours scheming, brainstorming, and planning our SXSW Interactive Festival adventure, and as of Friday we will be hitting the ground running.
We’re trying really hard not to freak out.
For those who haven't been freaking out like we have, here are the basics: SXSW is a series of interactive, film, and music conferences and events in the month of March all packed into 10 days. Over 80,000 people will descend on the event to network, learn, and share in their respective fields.
The schedule this year is busting at the seams with amazing content. It's stressful to try and whittle it down into the amount of events you actually have time to attend, but whittle we did, and we're here to share some highlights.
Here are the top 10 things on our radar...
1. Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality is the new black in the tech world, and the possibilities being dreamed up are mind-blowing. With the Oculus Rift now available for the public, will 2016 be the year of VR? There’s an entire Virtual Reality track at SXSW this year, consisting of events, meet-ups, and demos that show the ways VR will be the future of entertainment.
The VR programs range from revolutionizing gaming, to creating live music experiences, to upping the emotions in film. Can you imagine Inside Out having more emotions? We're still crying thinking about Riley’s new school scene.
There’s even talk about VR for porn. Yep, you read that right.
We love the idea of Virtual Reality being a part of the evolution of education for kids. Talk about opening up new worlds!
Event to Hit: Using Virtual Reality to Create Compassion March 16, 2:00-3:00 at the Hilton Austin Downtown
While we are excited to hit up some of the local Austin eateries (we're looking at you Torchy's Tacos and Live Oak Brewing Company), food is taking on a life of its own in the tech world. With the onset of quick recipe videos such as Tasty, the blending of food and technology seems to be creating quite a happy union. And the amount of programming relating to food at SXSW this year is impressive to say the least.
Event to Hit: Chow down at the BBQ Crash Course Friday March 11, 11:00am-2:00pm at Brush Square Park
3. Kerry Washington
You probably know her as the well-dressed, ass kicking gladiator, Olivia Pope, on the hit show Scandal. But outside of her role on the show, Kerry Washington is quite a force herself. Kerry is hosting a session with Inside Magazine about her professional and personal usage of Social Media and how to optimize it.
But what we really want to know is what Olivia Pope is doing!? Sleeping with the enemy, Olivia? Maybe we'll get some Scandal dirt along with our new Social Media skills.
Event to Hit: Kerry Washington and the New Rules of Social Stardom Sunday March 13, 11:00am at the Austin Convention Center
4. DJ Khaled
DJ Khaled is known for his music and for making a storm on Snapchat. He uses Snapchat like a pro; sharing his keys to success, literally, whenever the mood strikes. If you've ever clicked on his Snapchat story you know you're in for a significant time investment that generally involves him ranting, usually shirtless.
He's on the scene at the Music Festival playing a late-night show that's sure to be worth staying up for. If you can’t attend the session, the highlights are sure to be on his Snapchat story.
Also, who’s the person who snaps him all the time? Is that not exhausting?
Event to Hit: Dance the night away at the DJ Khaled Performance Thursday March 17, 12:45am at the Austin Music Hall
5. The Obamas
Say what!? Yep, that’s right. Just announced last week, the Obamas will be keynoting at SXSW this year. It's not often that they attend events like this, so we're pretty excited to see the leaders of our country recognizing the importance of technology in our future.
We have mixed feelings of excitement and frustration (mostly excitement!). On the one hand, Unbelievable! It's the President of the United States! On the other, security and traffic will likely be crazy. How do we get to the taco meet-up if traffic is backed-up? Thanks, Obama.
Tickets for President Obama's speech are chosen by a drawing of Interactive, Gold, and Platinum badge holders. If you're interested in going, make sure and put your name in the hat by the 8pm, March 10 deadline.
Even more exciting for us, Michelle will be keynoting the Music Festival on March 16th, discussing her Let Girls Learn initiative. More details on the time and location for that event will be coming in the next few days.
Event to Hit: President Obama Keynote Speech (if you can get tickets!) Friday March 11, 2:30pm at Dell Hall at The Long Center
Space galore. Always wanted to meet an astronaut? Here’s your chance.
There’s a huge focus on Mars at the moment and SXSW is no exception; how to occupy Mars, the next journey for Mars, you can even experience Mars through a hologram. Unfortunately, the news of gravitational waves hit after the sessions were chosen, but it will surely be a topic to discuss.
Event to Hit: Mars One: Humans on Mars in 2027 Tuesday March 15, 2:00-3:00pm at the Courtyard Marriott
7. The Gaming Expo
PC Master Race rage ensue. Taken place towards the end of SXSW Interactive Festival, The Gaming Expo will be a gamer's paradise. It’s no E3, but it is enough to make any gamer happy, and is a great opportunity to meet the creators and players alike.
The expo ranges from free play PC arena and table games, to eSports for those itching for a challenge. There will also be a gaming award show open to the public. You can probably guarantee Fallout 4 to win an award. Nominees like Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom of Pain, Life is Strange, Rocket League, Rise of Tomb Raider, The Witcher 3, and many more aiming for the top.
Event to Hit: Kick it Old School at the Videogame History Museum Lounge Saturday March 19, 12:00-8:00pm at the Austin Convention Center
8. Women in Tech
Outside of the norm for the tech world, Torch is a tech company that has a large percentage of women and is headed up by a rockstar woman CEO, Shelley Prevost. We love any opportunity to connect with other women making and doing great things. We're really looking forward to making some great connections at SXSW.
Lucky for us, SXSW makes connecting pretty easy with their meet-ups and networking events. Are you a woman who is in the tech world? There’s a meet up for that. “Okay that’s cool, but that’s still pretty broad.” Well, do you happen to be a lesbian who is in the tech world? Or a working mom? There's a meet up for that too!
Event to Hit: Smart Women Using Smart Data to Rise to the Top Friday March 11, 12:30-1:30pm at Austin City Limits Live at The Moody Theater
9. Finding Balance
As a company based around the idea of fostering balance with technology, we knew SXSW would be a great opportunity to find others cultivating the same. Technology is awesome, and we cannot wait to be immersed in the SXSW world and get a glimpse of the possibilities. But turning off the screens and connecting in real life is important too.
There are lots of interesting speakers and workshops around the idea of finding balance. There is, of course, a meet up for that. Check out the Find Balance in Technology Meet Up. We will definitely be there.
And if you're looking for a way to incorporate balance into parenting and education, look no further. Our own fun and interactive workshop will fit the bill on Friday, March 11. We'll have a panel of tech-savvy kids and their parents, as well as speakers with backgrounds in Psychology, Tech Education, and Parenting.
Event to Hit: Digital Parenting: Raising Balanced Innovators Friday March 11, 3:30-5:30 at the JW Marriott
10. Startup Village
We love startups. As a tech startup ourselves, there's nothing we love more than seeing big ideas being implemented by small, determined teams. So you better believe we'll be hitting up Startup Village. This hub will host Panels, Meet Ups, and Demos all directed at the Startup crowd. There's also the SXSW Accelerator startup competition going on Saturday the 12th and Sunday the 13th.
Event to Hit: As southerners ourselves, we're excited to hear Southern Entrepreneurship Takes Root Friday March 11, 11:00am at the Hilton Austin Downtown
If you want to come visit us, you can do so at our Digital Parenting Workshop on Friday, March 11 at 3:30pm.
We're also a finalist for an Interactive Innovation Award, which we're so excited about. We will have a booth at the Finalists' Showcase on Monday, March 14 from 12:00-3:00 where you can stop by and chat with us and get a demo of Torch.
We can't wait for Friday and to be immersed in the SXSW world.
What events are you super excited about? Who are you looking forward to connecting with? Tweet us @my_torch and let us know!
See you soon, Austin.
Written by Phanat Nen and Kate Joy.