The Next Big Thing(s) in Technology: 3 Takeaways from SXSW

Keep your focus on the future with these three takeaways from Austin's preeminent conference on technology, creativity and innovation: SXSW Interactive.

It's an exciting time for technology. This was made overwhelmingly apparent at this year's SXSW Interactive festival. From a session where Microsoft's Stephen Kim shared video-based prototypes that will change how we communicate across space and time to Neil deGrasse Tyson's talk on stimulating curiosity, the annual interactive conference was a veritable commonwealth for creatives, thinkers and technophiles alike.

If I had to sum up the entire event in one phrase, it would be: "The Internet will surround us like the air we breathe."

So simply put, but so incredibly poignant – and true. We are moving swiftly toward the future (or it is moving swiftly toward us), and the result is a world made more cohesive and connected by technology.

For those who were able to attend, I would love to hear your feedback on this year's SXSW Interactive conference, so drop in a comment with your thoughts. If you didn't get the chance to attend, not to worry, I have summed it up with my three takeaways below.

1. Wearables

Wearable technology has officially taken off and there's no doubt that it has the capacity to make an immediate and measurable impact in our lives. With a product like Google Glass, the Internet is all around us and we interact with it using intuitive motions. Fitbit contains bio feedback sensors that report stats about our bodies – everything from steps taken to hours slept – then synchs them with our devices for real-time information.

Following in these predecessors' footsteps, it was exciting to learn about tshirtOS, which is perhaps the most literal of wearables. TshirtOS is a programmable shirt containing a flexible and washable LED screen that can display changeable messages or animations – think of it as the clothing form of a mood ring, only this one you control with your smartphone.

The potential with wearable technologies like these is great. With them, we are moving closer and closer to a real-time existence. As with the t-shirt example, imagine going from displaying "Will You Marry Me?" to "She Said Yes" the moment the situation shifts. And that's just the beginning.

2. Augmented Reality

Another quote stood out to me at SXSW: "Augmented reality and wearable technology will change everything." Another simple statement that rang so true. Like wearable technology, augmented reality will take the Internet and our connection to it to a whole new level. It's destined, some say, to be more transformational than the Internet itself.

With augmented reality we will interact with sensors that cast a virtual reality. We will use the Internet to create a new surrounding and a different experience than our present space could otherwise allow. It's about making things present that are not really in our environment.

While this has obvious applications in gaming, there are business opportunities as well. Our smartphones, many of which are already equipped with beacons, will begin to deliver real-time messages and advertising. If you're at a Major League Baseball game this spring, don't be surprised if you receive a location-specific ad to stop by the nearest refreshment stand.

3. Internet of Things

One of the key themes at SXSW was: How does life change with technology? With the Internet of Things, the answer is substantially. This trend is yet another example of Internet technology coming into the home and workplace in ways that transform the traditional.

Now refrigerators don't just keep food fresh and chilled, but they alert us to moisture levels and allow us to customize temperature by fridge region. Cars, too, have been reinvented. They're no longer the ultimate piece of hardware – all motor and metal – but rather a computer that drives.

Technology is Transformative

It's an understatement to say that technology will change how we live and work. It is more apt to ask how much and how soon. Based on these three trends I saw at SXSW, I'd say immensely and that the changes are already in action.

Share what you learned at SXSW in the comments, or let me know how these technologies are beginning to change the way we live and work.

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