This year's SXSW has insane frights and virtual sights, and a lot of debate about Facebook too. I'm on the ground at the annual festival of tech, film and more, and finding out about all the projects you'll want to talk about in 2019.
From the first must-see film of 2019 to a robots who move to the music, here's our guide to what's going on at SXSW:
For the second SXSW in a row, Bose showed up to talk about its new wearable: Bose Frames. This year, though, with Frames already out and wowing us, Bose took to the street to show off some impressive audio-only Bose AR apps.
The best of those apps was an upcoming integration with Aira, an app that helps blind people navigate the world. This partnership will make for a better experience, as the Frames provide ambient audio that doesn't stop the blind and impaired from hearing the world around them.
Oh, and Bose also announced that the QC 35 II's will be getting Bose AR apps too. And that a Rose Gold version of those headphones will be coming soon.
At its Inspiration Gallery, LG showed off a series of conceptual CLOi (pronounced like Chloe) robots, which will use AI to assist us, read our gestures and perform K-Pop boy band songs. Yes, you read that right, there's even a band.
LG also brought its k-cup-like HomeBrew system out of the concept stage, and introduced a frozen treat-making machine called Snowwhite.
But seriously, there's a robotic boy band, and each member has a signature outfit. Seeing them perform live was enough to make the trip to SXSW worth it.
Similarly, the Kuka robotics team made us smile by using four robotic arms to play the hits. Specifically, they're using the Maya software to deconstruct MIDI music files to play songs.
I finally got some time with the Magic Leap augmented reality glasses at SXSW, as I tried three demos, including Tonandi, a collaboration with the band Sigur Ros, my favorite of the bunch. In Tonandi, I interacted with alien fauna, which mesmerized as arose from the floor at an Austin, TX restaurant.
The next demo, titled The Grinning Man, was an adaptation of a musical number from a Victor Hugo novel, and its characters looked a bit like figurines, with textures that seemed almost clay.
A more realistic-looking performance came from Robert Gilbert, a Royal Shakespeare Company, reading the "The Seven Ages of Man" speech from The Bard's "As You Like it." This performer looked a bit more realistic — he was shot with a different set of cameras — but the particle effects from the dissolving tree brought me back to reality.
Both performances appeared as holographically inlaid visuals in the room, but the small, picture-box nature of the Magic Leap demo showed that the technology has room to grow. I look forward to the technology's next steps, as it currently looks more like a diorama, than an immersion.
Spotify's Chief Content Officer Dawn Ostroff took to the SXSW stage to talk podcasts with two execs from the podcasts companies that the big green streaming giant just acquired. Matt Lieber, Gimlet media's co-founder, talked about how the decision to sell to Spotify came in part from their audience growing tremendously on Spotify, going from zero to 20 percent once Spotify took podcasts seriously.
Michael Mignano, co-founder and CEO of podcast creation/publishing app Anchor emphasized how podcasts should continue to stay 'open' and on all platforms, to fight off concerns that Spotify will turn all of its newly acquired shows into exclusives, saying "creators want to be everywhere." Ostroff noted that they will be "experimenting" with "windowed exclusives."
At the Sony Wow tent, I saw a number of conceptual technologies, but none as intriguing as Flash Darts, which combines moving projected targets and haptic feedback. It's not as wild as some of Sony's other sensory experiments, but I could see getting addicted to this if it hit my local Dave and Buster's.
Elizabeth Warren wasn't the only person discussing Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's empire at SXSW. Facebook's former chief of security Alex Stamos explained how the network's supposed pivot to privacy will have a negative impact on safety.
While the service will be able to protect users who are attacked, Stamos noted that those who opt into dangerous conversations — including terrorists — will be harder to police, as a result of the increased focus on encrypted messaging.
Former Facebook employees Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom — who co-founded Instagram, which Facebook acquired — talked about Instagram's authenticity problem. When prompted on the topic of safety warnings for posts related to opioids, Systrom stated that Instagram needs to keep those messages, which panel moderator Josh Constine claimed had vanished.
Systrom also explained the backstory about why Facebook added Snapchat's Stories feature, and added a dash of skepticism about Mark Zuckerberg's plan for cross platform messaging across Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram.
Poppy Harlow was unable to get much of an answer about Facebook out of Zuckerberg's wife, Priscilla Chan, at a talk centered around the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Even when Chan was given questions about Facebook, she managed to evade, like an college friend untagging unwanted photos on the social network.
Jordan Peele's Us made its world premiere at SXSW to a raucous audience delighted to be horrified by the suspenseful film. While my review keeps details to a bare minimum, it must be said that Lupita Nyong'o's performance is the kind of magnificent brilliance that will be studied for years to come.
At the following screening at Austin's Paramount Theater, Jermaine Clement (Flight of The Conchords) and Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok) brought the undead brilliance of What We Do In The Shadows back to life. The screening debuted the pilot of the upcoming FX episodic comedy, which adapts the original mockumentary, but moves its location from New Zealand to Staten Island, without losing any of the charm.
Speaking of difficult adaptations, I was there as an audience at SXSW saw a preview of Good Omens, an upcoming 6-episode series based on Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's masterpiece. While we didn't see more than 4 scenes from the film, those glimpses of the project, which focus on performances from Michael Sheen, David Tennant and Jon Hamm, gave newcomers a lot to laugh at while seemingly satisfying the die-hard fans of the original work.
If you love horror movies that are dripping with gross content, you'll need to see Girl On The Third Floor, the directorial debut of Travis Stevens (Buster's Mal Heart). This unsettling movie tracks Don (Phil Brooks) a screw-up of a husband (and father-to-be), who's desperate to start anew as he renovates a Chicago house with a cursed history. Artfully shot, the film's filled with oozing goo that comes out of the walls and pipes, reminiscent of Evil Dead II, but moving at slower, less torrential amounts, which are even more unsettling. Brooks, who you may know as the former WWE Champion CM Punk, is great in this, his first feature film role, and shows shades of Bruce Campbell as the house drives him to madness.