y&r's sxsw takeaways 2017

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  • At SXSW this year the hearables market was estimated to reachmore than $40 billion by 2020. And Amazons voice assistant Alexaalone was estimated to hit $10B in the same time frame.

    Advanced computing has found new ways to liberate itself fromthe screen through systems that more accurately interpret voicerecognition and natural language processing. And while deviceslike Alexa aren't exceedingly smart yet, what they are doing istraining generations of people to speak to their devices.

    It also represents a significant leap forward for audio as a growinguser interface. The movement reinterprets mobile not just as adevice you take with you but rather, a more richly integratedand dynamic network that surrounds you and enables fluidcommunication with varied technology to augment daily life.



  • Following the 2016 election, news media faced yet another challenge: thedistortion of truth. Tech played a major role in the rise of fake news. Butinnovations in tech are also playing a key role in the efforts to combat it.

    At SXSW this year, Dan Rather spoke to a packed room about how therise of fake news and distortion of truth is affecting the media. Forinstance, live tweeting has been abandoned by many news organizationsdue to the consequences of posting inaccuracies.

    However, in todays digital age, the pressure to report quickly is oftendifficult to balance with investigating and corroborating claims. Inresponse, reporters are making efforts to label stories published withoutfull investigation even if that means a longer headline.

    ClaimBuster is one company offering tools that can sift through massamounts of text to fact-check claims. Also on the horizon are instant pop-up fact-checking bots on live TV. But as Rather reminded the audience,the bottom line remains: moral intent matters when it comes to the truthand journalistic mission.

    A lieis a lieis a lie.

    Dan RatherFormer CBS News Anchor




    Great power comes with differentiated responsibility. As technologycontinues to expand the reach of brands, companies, and individuals,the call for ethical awareness was marked at SXSW this year.

    In his panel, Mike Godwin advocated for a proactive approach toprotecting privacy characterizing laws as fundamentally reactive.People tend to think of one side of the equation: what threatenstechnology or what threats does technology pose. The law thinks ofboth, which is why its slow to adapt. But we also need to startthinking about both sides of this relationship, said FBI GeneralCounsel James Baker.

    Although digital technologies impose a new ethical framework, theyalso enable brands to build trust and transparency in new ways.Brands like Snapchat and Lyft have successfully challenged moreestablished players by bringing ethics to the forefront. In ourconnected world, it is important to remember that humanity andtechnology are inextricably linked, perhaps now more than ever.


  • Panels throughout the week were focused not only on the evolutionsand opportunities across AI, but also on the risks. One issue of focuswas the impact of computer bias and biased data sets.

    Shane Mac, CEO & Co-Founder of Assist stressed the importance ofdiverse hiring practices in tech. Speakers throughout the week agreedthat creating more diverse and inclusive data sets behind AI andalgorithms in the future was a key issue for companies. Without this,as technology evolves we risk compounding issues for underservedgroups as biases become cemented in and persist throughout ourcomputing paradigms.

    The conversation echoes the diversity gap across many industries, butcarries even greater consequences as machine learning and AItechnology accelerates and influences a connected world. In anothersession, Southeast Asia SapientNitros Melanie Cook summarized itwell saying, The most important question isnt how to make superintelligence, or when will it come about. The most important questionis, when it does come about, how do we make it do the right thing?

    You need to have diverse perspectives when you create computers so they reflect humanity as a whole, not just one perspective.Shane Mac, CEO & Co-Founder Assist



  • Chat bots designed to simulate human conversation have crafted animportant space in a growing messenger and one-to-one space. Lastyear, the big four messaging apps (WhatsApp, Messenger, WeChatand Viber) surpassed the big four social apps in user count.

    Brands dipping into messaging face an audience of 2.6 billion users something marketers should be mindful of when targeting thesecommunities that have matured without them.

    One such opportunity is to reduce friction in the consumer journey.Bots can help consumers to interact with brands, find entertainment,or get things done without the use of an app but venture carefully.According to Kiks Laura Newton, 70% of chat bots are currently notmeeting user needs or expectations.

    Newton warned that many marketers want to do too much, pursuingrobust features to attract users. The reality is bots on existingmessaging apps face fewer consumer adoption hurdles than newapps. She advised, instead, that bots should focus less on robustnessand more on consistency in offering a reliable user experience.


    We believe that conversations will become the new user interface.

    Laura NewtonProduct Manager, Kik


  • Despite countless studies and widespread agreement about howmuch companies stand to benefit from diversity and gender parity,the issue has yet to see major strides in progress. Laura Jones, VPStrategy Director at Y&R BAVLab, argued that to move the needleon building female leadership, we need to amplify female voices.

    In a world where visibility equates to promote-ability, conferencesand speaking opportunities are key to balanced leadership. But take,for example, SXSWi 2016; although attendance split 50/50 betweenmen and women, women comprised just 38% of speakers. Citingcommon challenges such as logistics, time, fear and the confidencegap, Jones urged the audience to employ a push and pull strategy.

    Step one is being more aware of the issue; a reminder to be generouswith opportunities something both men and women, particularly insenior ranks, can do to spread speaking opportunities and visibility torising talent. The places we create in need to look more like theworld we create for, said Jones.



  • Innovation is not a dark art. Self-driving cars and machine learningalgorithms dont build themselves, and websites dont appear from theether these are things that humans do, with help from data.

    James Baker argued that people today need to immerse themselves indata: Legislators and executives alike need to become more proficientwith technology. You cannot just delegate. You need to hold peopleaccountable by asking questions and understanding why they act theway they do. For the FBI, failure to act on good data can risk lives.

    However, according to the CEO of Baobab, Maureen Fan, the wayhumans use technology is what guides innovation. VR is at a goodplace, we just need to convince directors like Chris Nolan and JamesCameron to use the tools that are out there as long as there iscompelling storytelling at the center, VR can transcend all mediums.

    Context, discourse, and instinct make data actionable. Without thesepillars of human thinking, we would be lost in a sea of spreadsheets. Itis equally important to expand our potential through technology, andlet data occasionally shake our core assumptions.

    Human resources are the greatest limiting factor, because the government is only as good as the people who go into it. We have the technology, but we need better people. James Baker, General Counsel, FBI



  • The ultimate objective for VR is to transport the user into another worldthat can be experienced and interacted with through multiple sensorydevices. For years (and many SXSW conferences), its been touted asthe next tech breakthrough. Broadly, the hype has been disappointingas advancements have been limited use-cases like gaming.

    Chris Sacca, an early investor in Uber and Twitter argued that despiteeverything, VR remains one-dimensional: VR deprecates every othersense we have - it is all encompassing and doesn't fit into our existingsenses and lifestyle.

    Integrating virtual technology with the physicality of the real world cancreate something that does not separate from the real world, butenhances our experiences within it.

    One example: John Hanke, CEO & Founder of Niantic Labs and Sam Gill from the Knight Foundation discussed ARs power in reclaiming civic commons from the standpoint that AR allows cities and countries to engage audiences quickly, at scale, and at low cost.




    Authenticity is hard to convey, difficult to embrace, and impossibleto ignore. In todays connected world, people want to see theirvalues and attitudes reflected in their brands and technology.

    Some brands have balanced authenticity and empathy on socialmedia by encouraging people to use their pseudo-anonymity to bethe best version of themselves. Imgur founder Allan Scaaf arguedthat encouraging vulnerability is the best way to create thismeaningful connection with consumers.

    Community helps people feel they are a part of something biggerthan themselves, and theyre more likely to feel understood. Whenbrands think first as people, they can add value, create positiveemotional experiences, and