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Last week, we took on Austin for South By Southwest, and we were excited to see many of our 2017 Trends in action —  not only through the projects produced by our in-house innovation lab, Chaotic R&D, but in the overarching themes that appeared throughout the festival.

While World on Wheels wasn’t manifested in the form of autonomous pedicabs transporting attendees around town like we’d hoped (fingers crossed for 2018!), here are a few of the Trends that took SXSW by storm this year.

Me, Myself and AI

This SXSW, Chaotic R&D debuted an A.I. unlike any other in the form of PartyBOT, which served to perfectly encapsulate Me, Myself and A.I.

While artificial technology isn’t brand-new technology (and bots have been around), PartyBOT is different in the emotional intelligence arena, the importance of which is the focus of this particular trend. Unlike Alexa or Google Home — which can perhaps spout off a sarcastic quip but are largely lacking in emotion, depth and nuance — PartyBOT boasts facial recognition, which gives it the ability to recognize users’ feelings through facial expressions and words, and to recognize whether those align. This allows for an artificial intelligence being with more emotional intelligence and empathy, thereby resulting in more meaningful conversations — and even makes for a bot that can truly understand sarcasm. (Check out what Engadget editor James Trew had to say about his PartyBOT experience.)

And we weren’t the only ones talking A.I. at South By. The festival itself put out a post on programming trends that referenced the ubiquity of the technology and the way it’s being applied across the board. Let’s just say we have a feeling that by SXSW 2018, we’ll be seeing better bots than ever before.

Blurred Reality

Another trend that was brought to life through a Chaotic R&D project was Blurred Reality, which took form in the mixed-reality masterpiece, BrickClick. This project utilizes a HoloLens to assist the user in assembling a Lego car — no instruction manual necessary — and demonstrates how MR can be used as a tool for education and knowledge sharing.

As for applications other than recreational, take furniture assembly or car repair. Imagine if you could simply strap on a HoloLens and have real-time directions projected as an overlay on top of your real-world view. This would certainly be simpler than constantly referring back to a sheet of paper or a how-to YouTube video — and would likely result in far fewer expletives.

Ephemeral Stories

Given the fast and furious nature of the festival, storytelling took a unique form at SXSW, exemplifying how our Ephemeral Stories trend plays out in real life.

Through platforms like Snapchat, features like Instagram Stories and techniques such as live Tweeting, brands, influencers and members of the press were able to report instantly on what was going on with parties, panels and programs, opting to focus on rapid-fire delivery rather than shiny, edited content. These stories weren’t meant to serve as perfectly packaged footage of the fest, but to communicate its story to an audience in real time, when it’s most relevant.

Simultaneously, festival attendees utilized these platforms — sometimes with the simple click of Snapchat spectacles, which were available in vending machines around town —  to share their own stories throughout the fest, leveling the content playing field and allowing anyone interested to tune in via hashtag.

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