It's that time of year again: SXSW has kicked off in Texas, with the Interactive Festival spearheading everything.
It's important to remember that SXSW isn't like bigger tech conferences, such as Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, as it has become more corporate and less about the latest must-have app. Last year, for instance, cybersecurity was a big thing. NSA leaker Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange even headlined a lineup of sessions and panels.
Snowden isn't expected to give a talk again, but some other big names are on the speaker roster, including Astro Teller, Eric Schmidt, Biz Stone, Russell Brand, and Al Gore. Badges required for attendance aren't sold out either, so you can still grab one now and fly out to see the sessions in person, though we'll admit the entire trip isn't going to be cheap. Keep reading for all the ins and outs of SXSW 2015.
What is SXSW?
SXSW is technically supposed to be written as "SxSW", and that's because it stands for South by Southwest. It's a set of annual festivals and conferences put on by a company called SXSW since 1987. They take place in Austin, Texas during mid-March, with each festival and conference having a theme centered around film, interactive, or music. The 22nd annual SXSW Interactive Festival, for instance, kicks off 13 March.
The SXSW website has described the 5-day Interactive Festival as "an incubator of cutting-edge technologies and digital creativity", consisting of presentations and panels from leaders in emerging technology, as well as hosted networking events, and a lineup of special programs that will showcase new sites, video games, startup ideas, and more.
Watch the video below to see a recap of SXSW 2014:
The SXSW Interactive Festival will be running in conjunction with the Film Festival (13 March to 21 March), while the Music Festival won't start until 17 March and is expected to last five days as well. You can learn more about each festival here.
Here's what's new at the 2015 SXSW Interactive Festival:
The top speakers at this year's Interactive Festival are expected to talk about ambitious projects. Astro Teller, who heads Google's X division, will discuss how Google is tackling self-driving cars and balloon-powered internet, while the Winklevoss twins will give a talk about what Bitcoin needs to do to succeed as a mainstream currency. News anchor Dan Rather will even analyse breaking news in the era of Snapchat.
Oh, and Aeromobil will detail its mission to create a flying car. Apart from TED-style talks, some sessions will also be all about self-marketing. Former US vice-president Al Gore, for instance, will be on hand to advertise his global climate legislation that is up for a vote in December. Actor Russell Brand, who is opening the film section of SXSW with his new documentary, will also talk about his new daily YouTube show Trews.
Twitter cofounder Biz Stone and former Google chief executive officer Eric Schmidt will also lead panels. In other words: the 22nd annual SXSW Interactive Festival will feature a lot of speakers. There will be more than 1,000 panels and sessions from 2,500 scheduled speakers. Media companies will also host events in their own spaces, such as Yahoo, which is previewing three original series its premiering this spring.
You can see the full schedule of events here. You can also go here to view all of the 2015 SXSW trends. Organisers think alternatively-fueled cars, drone delivery, social media, health and medicine, millennials, and robots will all be trending topics. Speaking of robots, SXSW attendees will be eligible to playfully interact with robots at a three-day Robot Petting Zoo event. Yeah. We're jealous too.
What is SXStyle?
Organisers said it noticed an ever-growing presence from the fashion and tech community at SXSW Interactive, so they're launching SXstyle this year. It's five days of panel sessions, networking opportunities, and evening events that that will explore the "complex ties" between fashion, art, culture, and technology. It'll also focus on topics like wearable tech, 3D printing, innovative design, the future of retail, virtual sizing, and more.
Panels will include execs from ASOS, Topshop, Gap, Neiman Marcus, and Kate Spade, among many others. SXstyle programming and events will run from 13 March through 17 March at the JW Marriott Hotel. It's open to all Interactive Festival registrants.
How popular is the SXSW Interactive Festival?
It's growing. There were nearly 33,000 attendees at the Interactive Festival in 2014. That’s 33,000 people interested in technology, including influential entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, marketers, developers, nonprofit leaders, gamers, and journalists. Organisers have said they expect roughly 34,000 attendees this year. For comparison purposes: the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show had more than 170,000 attendees.
How much are SXSW badges?
Registration badges are required for access to any SXSW festival and conference. You can register online for the event of your choice (Music, Film, or Interactive) or a combination of events. Currently, SXSW has sold out of pre-order badges and is only offering walk-up rates. One badge to the Interactive Festival costs $1,295, or you can get combination badges, which include access to other events, but they cost upward of $1,745.