With apologies to the people behind CES, my favorite conference starts tomorrow in Austin. SxSW is a bastion of innovative new product demos, incredible apps (last year, Meerkat was the talk of the show--it just did a pivot), and incredibly smart people talking in panels. President Obama will give a keynote tomorrow; J.J. Abrams is going to talk about robots and murder. It's a blast. As usual, I'm pumped to cover a few new advancements in tech. Here's a rundown of what I'm expecting.
1. Virtual reality
VR is the biggest trend of 2016 by far. Oculus will finally release its VR goggle known as the Rift this year. HTC plans to release another model called the Vive. At SxSW, I'm expecting to not only test these new models but also to find out how the conference itself and companies are making the technology more viable for everyday use (not just as a gaming platform). One possibility: I'll demo a new product called Eyefluence that uses your eyes to control a VR feed. SxSW added an entire conference dedicated to VR and augmented reality this year.
Wearable tech comes in a close second to VR. It's no coincidence that Fitbit is releasing a new model called the Alta this week. At SxSW, I'm hoping to find several new products that blend into your wardrobe and don't stick out so much or look like a fitness accessory. And wearables are starting to enter the verticals. A new device called the Vivi gives caregivers in an emergency room a patient's vitals in real time via a head-worn display.
3. Innovative apps
SxSW is always a hotbed for new apps, particularly since many of the coolest innovations are location-based. For example, I'll be testing an app called Favor that hand-delivers food to your current location. It works in a few cities, including Austin, where SxSW is based. Another one, called Service, has made a big promise. Using the app, I can have someone stand in line for a popular panel. At the last minute, we'll switch places. We'll see if that works.
4. Tech diversity
Last year, I found out that a low percentage of young women enter the tech sector and pursue a degree in engineering. There's a stigma about the "tech geek" being a guy. That needs to change. At SxSW, I'll be interviewing the famed documentary director Ken Burns and his panel discussing race in America. I mainly want to talk about workplace diversity and what needs to change.
5. The future of transportation
I'm guessing this will be a big topic for SxSW. We'll hear about the Hyperloop--the high-speed train that's about to begin trials in Las Vegas--and the connected car. I'm sure President Obama will touch on the topic in his keynote. And I plan to scout around for any new car tech that will help us get to work a little safer and faster and with more perks. Stay tuned.