BNMC Team Members Offer Perspectives on SXSW Festival
Two BNMC team members, Kyria Stephens, community program manager, and Sean Heidinger, business development manager, along with several of our local partners, attended the 2019 SXSW Festival in Austin, TX earlier this month. Kyria and Sean offer their perspectives on the event and share key takeaways that will enhance our diversity and inclusion efforts on the Medical Campus.
From the Desk of Kyria
1. The Future is Here
One of the coolest things about science fiction is that is takes you to an imaginary world full of possibilities and strange gadgets! At SXSW, it was like we walked into the “New New”. Everything was from the future! We experienced VR on another level, and there was even a man who was breastfeeding his newborn via an artificial breast. The future of technology, film making, music and social engagement were all crammed in an area where there were just as many people riding electric scooters as there were cars.
2. Change your Vantage Point
There were several workshops and sessions on what it is like to be a woman or minority in white male-dominated spaces. We often see the statistics on inequality and hear that things need to change, but these sessions put flesh to the stories. The stories pushed for inclusion and equality by encouraging the attendees to understand the perspectives of women and minorities in everyday situations. Once your vantage point is changed you will see the landscape in a different way.
3. Party Party Party
Everywhere you went there was celebration in the atmosphere! Live music in the bars, outdoor roller rinks on the corner, food trucks on the sidewalks and hi-fives on the streets. It didn’t matter what color, gender or city you’re from, you were officially apart of the SXSW celebration, and I was loving it.
4. Food from Around the Globe
Every good party needs to have great food, and there was no shortage of it! I think I ate food from every continent. You name it, and it was probably on the next block! Almost everything was in walking distance and rightfully so because we needed to burn the calories afterward.
5. Inspiration to Take Back Home
We experienced such a charged atmosphere that when it came time to leave, we were ready to experiment in Buffalo. We know that everything won’t work, but I believe that our creativity got a booster shot, and we will now approach things in a fresher way.
From the Desk of Sean
1. Throughout SXSW Tradeshow: VR VR VR VR
If you asked me what type of company/technology absolutely dominated the SXSW Trade Show
, I would tell you that the amount of new companies and developments in Virtual Reality is overwhelming. Mind you, I do not have a technology background, so all innovative tech is impressive to me, but I felt that what companies are doing with VR is truly groundbreaking. There were a couple companies that stood out to me. For instance, Paradiddle
. With my background in the music industry and spending a lot of time on tour in my twenties, this is a technology I gravitated towards, especially as a percussionist. See Kyria below playing a virtual drum set. He couldn’t see anyone or hear anything outside of the virtual world he was in, but there was a definitely a dance party that developed around this booth when he jumped on the drum set! Note the peddles on his feet for kick drum and hi hat. Amazing.
2. Real Life Apps: Imagine Jumping Right Through The Screen of Your Phone
That’s right, dive right through the screen into your favorite app and experience that world. At SXSW, leading technologies and applications construct physical locations, almost like a movie set, to provide you with a physical app experience. Two of my favorite apps are Uber Eats and Calm. One, obviously used for food delivery to your home from your favorite eateries that otherwise would not be available and the second to provide a calming experience to get you to sleep right away. I highly suggest both of them. Uber Eats, all over SXSW, had pop up cafeterias serving the most popular deliveries on the app. When Kyria and I arrived on 6th Street, all you had to do was show that you have the Uber Eats app and then boom!, a plate full of Popeyes Chicken was delivered right to you on the street. Every aspect of the experience was meticulously branded for both Uber Eats and Popeyes, proving that technology and the long standing restaurant chain are working together to provide an innovative experience both from your couch and at SXSW.
In regards to the CALM app, their booth was within the SXSW Trade Show, and they decided to host a booth that made you feel as if you were right in the middle of a tranquil wooden forest or jungle. They were playing actual recordings from the jungle and had seating that made you feel as if you were in a hut with natives. To seal the deal, they actually brought live sloths (the most comfortable and slow moving animal on the planet) right into the booth as the icing on the cake. While these animals caused quite a stir, the CALM app still managed to maintain an environment worth tweeting about.
3. Vice’s Skateland – Truly Incredible. Community Engagement at Its Finest!
Vice News had NOTHING to do with SXSW, except for creating a fun and interactive experience for everyone to enjoy. When I left the festival, Vice News had provided me with the most memorable experience. Vice News is a program on HBO that goes live and provides real, deep, and factual news with no commitments. They built their brand at SXSW by hosting Vice’s Skateland. Simply put, come on in (hundreds of people at a time), enjoy free cotton candy and slushies, and then throw some skates on, and hit the rink for free. It was a very simple, but free-spirited and highly engaging aspect to the festival that almost felt like a home away from home while cruising around Austin. At first pass, I declined skating and let Kyria do his thing. Then when we came back, I got involved. It was at Vice’s Skateland that I had the biggest smile of the weekend on my slushee stained face. It was an experience like this that makes me reconsider the psychology behind providing a truly memorable event experience. As I press on with planning events, I will always keep this in mind.
4. Female Empowerment and Racial Inclusion (Awareness) – We Can Do Better
Another very apparent theme at SXSW this year was major brands and technology companies’ commitment to women and minority inclusion. What I found most impressive, using technology to address this issue, was one company’s use of VR to experience the life and daily dealings of somebody who doesn’t look like you, at all. Walk a mile in someone else shoes was an experience I will never forget. It’s easy to assume, but this technology actually put me in direct connection with what someone else deals with daily. I was not only impressed, but profoundly excited to see that technology is being used to amplify these issues and helping to get more people behind supporting change. Put on the VR goggles and join me.
5. Buffalo, NY: You Can’t Shake This City
One would think that by going all the way to Texasthat there would be little to no Buffalo connections. Think again. See below, a photo of Brett Mikoll (Co Founder of Oxford Pennant) and Pablo Pinto (Founder of Tara.ai), both companies active at SXSW with Buffalo connections. One of the beauties of festivals like this is that being in such an innovative city makes one think differently. While I see Brett quite often in Buffalo, it’s because of our surroundings that we were able to get our typical conversation to a whole new level. Maybe it’s because we were on scooters, maybe it’s because of the vibe at SXSW, but I am confident that SXSW is so popular and considered the biggest networking event in the world simply because of the effect it has on people to press forward, think differently, and use their talents and technologies for good and change. Thank you for a wonderful long weekend, SXSW.