Five Fun Things from SXSW

There were so many great things happening at SXSW this year— I wanted to share just a small sampling of some of the things I learned while there.


A small group of engineers and some passionate linguists and hobbyists control all our emojis. These teams must create and maintain a universal pictographic language that two billion people keep in their pockets. It needs to be an easy to understand, culturally aware, unbiased, visual language. That’s not easy.

Auditory Slides

The best presentations use the format of the presentation itself to demonstrate the power of your idea. One of the best presentations I saw was about the power of sound to add additional meaning to your work. The presenter, Sam Crowther, used no slides. Instead, he had an iPod in his hand and a series of audio tracks; each track was an auditory slide that added background, meaning, and value to his talk.

The Artistic Side of VR

Virtual reality can be an art form. I immersed myself in a short French film that created a very powerful narrative about the moral and ethical implications of artificial intelligence. For fifteen minutes I knew what it felt like to be an AI machine that is put on display, ignored, and ultimately dismissed. I felt sad about being easily cast aside and confusion over what it might mean for a computer to have feelings.

3D Printed Beauty

Check out this cool art created with a projector and some 3d printed mesh structures by Akinori Goto:

Be an Extension of Your User’s Imagination

Have your products be an extension of the world in which your users live. Nickelodeon was creating a mobile game to pair with their TV show about some middle school girls who start a mobile app company. The game mechanics are simple and they created Narby the Narwhal as the protagonist. Through their research they discovered that a donut-eating narwhal wasn’t strange enough, so they added legs and sneakers to him. Then they added in random objects and combos to achieve like “Double money monkey toilet!” which shows up across the bottom of the screen. The stranger they got, the more kids liked the game. This team reminds us that the best way to connect with people is to extend their world rather than forcing them into yours.