Highlights from SXSW Interactive 2016

18 pictures

Pepper the robot is now linked up with IBM's Watson artificial intelligence system

Pepper the robot is now linked up with IBM's Watson artificial intelligence system (Credit: Michael Franco/Gizmag) View gallery (18 images)

Now in its 30th year, the South By Southwest Interactive Festival fills the city of Austin Texas with all manner of gizmos, gadgets, exhibits, experiences, showcases and yes – traffic jams and epic lines. During the past week the town was an epicenter for all things tech, tackling complicated issues like privacy and gender equality in the digital space, and highlighting the more frivolous side of the equation with rock-paper-scissors-playing robots and giant Ferris wheels. President and First Lady Obama had keynote speeches that bookended the festival, marking the first time a sitting president had attended SXSW, and as usual – the big brands abounded. Naturally, Gizmag was on hand to soak it all up. Here are a few of the highlights in pictures.

Robots were everywhere at SXSW, but perhaps none were more impressive-looking than this behemoth on display from the Innovation Alliance. The Alliance advocates for upholding the current US patent system in the face of proposed legislation that could weaken it, and the standing of inventors who rely on it for their livelihood. As such, the robot (named INO-V8) was constructed from all American-made items from the past 200 years, but didn't really do all that much – though there was a vintage playable Asteroid game built into its side.

Another buzz-grabbing robot was Pepper, who welcomed visitors to the IBM Cognitive Studios exhibit. The emotion-sensing robot from Japanese tech firm SoftBank was hanging out at the IBM space because it was recently announced it would now integrate with IBM's Watson computer to get even better at recognizing and responding to human beings. There was also a small table-top version of Pepper onsite challenging humans to games of rock-paper-scissors. I trounced the snarky little hunk of metal, but other humans weren't so lucky.

Why yes, that is a giant First Order TIE fighter. The big beast of a model was installed next to the SXSW food park known as "SouthBites" and was built in relatively secrecy the night before the festival opened by prop-building group Project X1, featuring members from worldwide Star Wars fan-group, The 501st Legion. The TIE fighter exhibit was sponsored by Disney to call attention to the fact that it's releasing the Blu-ray disc of The Force Awakens. It was also, apparently, put on to make parents with kids stand in long lines in the blistering sun to get their pictures taken beneath the craft.

There were lots more pieces of eye candy to be had at SXSW, even if there weren't any major tech announcements like the much-missed years when Twitter (2007) and Foursquare (2009) burst on the scene at the festival. Continue the tour in our highlights gallery – no waiting in line required.

View gallery (18 images)
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