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The greatest hits of SXSW 2013

We came, we saw, and the Oculus Rift conquered. Here's what we found this year in Austin, Texas at SXSW 2013.

  • Trent Wolbe

    Mar 15, 2013

    Trent Wolbe

    Dr. Shaq goes social: SXSW and the future of learning in an AI-dominated world

    seats stage trent sxsw
    seats stage trent sxsw

    Remember what it was like in 2009 when you were trying to explain what Twitter was to people who didn’t use Twitter? I used to feel like I was a lifelong Burner trying to explain Burning Man: “You won’t understand it unless you experience it, man.” It was the anti-explanation and everyone hated it including me and then I found Shaq.

    It was this tweet, sent out when Shaq himself still didn’t really understand how powerful 140 characters could be, that made Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey call him “the ideal Twitter user.” It also made explaining Twitter (and all social media) a lot less annoying for assholes like me. I absorbed vast quantities of O’Knowledge during an interview with the futurist Brian Solis last week at SXSWi called Shaq Goes Social.

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  • Ellis Hamburger

    Mar 12, 2013

    Ellis Hamburger

    Death by notification: will Google Glass drown us in data?

    glass 912
    glass 912

    Let's face it: we're all pretty horrible at turning off push notifications on our smartphones. You install an app, give it permission to notify you with updates, and before you know it, your phone's buzzing like a beehive with status updates, tagged photos, and friends checking in nearby. The definition of "urgent" is becoming harder and harder to define. According to Google's Timothy Jordan, Google Glass is all about "getting technology out of the way," but if his keynote yesterday was any indication, Glass could easily become just another screen, buzzing, beeping, and vying for our attention. When that screen is on your face, it's impossible to ignore.

    At a presentation for potential Glass developers at SXSW, Jordan demoed various kinds of push notifications and interactions in Google Glass. The company's "Mirror API" makes it simple to subscribe to notifications from services like The New York Times and social networking app Path. The Times service, for example, can be configured to push breaking news straight to your Glass headset. A headline will appear on Glass, which you can select by tapping the device's trackpad or just by looking up. Jordan hinted that you'll be able to have Glass read articles aloud to you if you're on the go.

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  • Adrianne Jeffries

    Mar 12, 2013

    Adrianne Jeffries

    NASA rockets into social space, but lacks a clear mission

    nasa lead
    nasa lead

    It was dark and chilly in Austin on Sunday, March 10th, the night that NASA planned to break the Guinness World Record for "largest outdoor astronomy lesson." The cold front had cleared the clouds, leaving the stars bright and stark in the sky, and the 526 space geeks in NASA ball caps and T-shirts didn’t mind the temperature – they were happy to participate, even though the talk was just a basic demonstration on light and color. Some even lugged their own telescopes.

    At 8:35PM, Dr. Frank Summers, the master of ceremonies and a Hubble astrophysicist, stopped abruptly to make an announcement. "Those of you with smartphones," he said, with a triumphant pause, "You can tweet that we have just finished the world’s largest outdoor astronomy lesson!"

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  • Trent Wolbe

    Mar 12, 2013

    Trent Wolbe

    We are all routers: a new empathetic internet and the orgasmic mediation that fuels it

    sxsw-trent-lede
    sxsw-trent-lede

    Flipping through the pocket programming guide for South By Southwest 2013 feels a little bit like reading through an entire year of one of those Joke-A-Day or Far Side calendars you had on your desk when you were a kid in one sitting: you are really not supposed to take all of this in in just one day.

    Some sound like they are for babies, others sound like they are for EMBA students, most sound like they are for bloggers. And then there was

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  • Laura June

    Mar 12, 2013

    Laura June

    Don't ask me anything: Reddit-critical panel provokes contentious Q&A

    reddit
    reddit

    Friday afternoon, SXSWi hosted a panel called, “It’s Reddit’s Web. We Just Live in It.” The room was packed. And sadly, as though to prove the title’s point, what might have been a reflective, thoughtful discussion about the massive site’s power and influence – its achievements as well as its flaws and foibles – instead became a contentious Q&A session dominated by apparent Redditors who felt misrepresented.

    The three panelists, Slate’s Farhad Manjoo, Gawker writer Adrian Chen, and Skepchick’s Rebecca Watson, briefly discussed Reddit’s achievements, including its part in defeating SOPA, the contentious bill introduced by the US Congress in 2011 and designed to expand law enforcement’s ability to fight online piracy. (Reddit’s co-founder Alexis Ohanian had reportedly been asked to speak – and declined.)

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  • Sean Hollister

    Mar 11, 2013

    Sean Hollister

    Google reveals Glass apps: New York Times, Evernote, Gmail, and Path

    We're watching Google's Project Glass developer panel live at SXSW Interactive, and the company's showing off some of the first third-party software integrated into Glass — all using a unified "Timeline cards" interface to position short bursts of useful information in your peripheral vision, and Google's Mirror API to pull down that data. Google's developer advocate Timothy Jordan demonstrated that software on stage, starting with The New York Times. Breaking news can be delivered hourly to your Glass headset. If you use the "look up" head gesture, Glass can show off photos and headlines, and read the text of a story to you as well.

    Each Glass integration must abide by four principles: "design for glass," "don't get in the way," "keep it timely," and "avoid the unexpected." Gmail has a presence on Glass too, allowing you to reply to important emails right from the headset. The Gmail "subscription" can be configured to only push you "Important" emails. You'll see the message subject line, a picture of the sender, and can dictate your response with Google's voice recognition system. "You can still have access to the technology that you love, but it doesn't take you out of the moment," Jordan said.

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  • Ellis Hamburger

    Mar 11, 2013

    Ellis Hamburger

    Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley: your phone knows if you're a local or a tourist

    dennis-crowley
    dennis-crowley

    Dennis Crowley is the man behind Foursquare, the check-in and food recommendations machine challenging Yelp as the de facto place to answer "what should I grab to eat?" Foursquare emerged at SXSW four years ago, and has since grown to 30 million users who have checked in over three billion times. What was once a cool way to see where your friends are evolved into one of the most important sources of data on where urbanites like to eat and drink. Crowley took some time to talk to The Verge about the ever-changing buttons of the Foursquare application, the data science behind its recommendations, and why push notifications can be an extremely tricky business.

    Photo credit: Michael Shane
    Video production: John Lagomarsino and Ryan Manning
    Editing by: John Lagomarsino
    Special thanks to Borrow Lenses, who provided us with cameras and lenses

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  • Ellis Hamburger

    Mar 10, 2013

    Ellis Hamburger

    Samsung designer Golden Krishna: 'Our love for the digital interface is out of control'

    golden krishna samsung 2
    golden krishna samsung 2

    Golden Krishna, Senior Designer at Samsung Design America, wants to upend the way we think about user interfaces. "Our love for the digital interface is out of control," he says. "It has become our answer to everything." If he has his way, the future of Samsung consumer electronics might work more like the Nest thermostat, which learns about your favorite temperature, or a Mercedes-Benz automobile, which automatically unlocks when it detects the keys in your pocket.

    "The best interface is no interface," he repeated over and over at a SXSW keynote this morning. Three principles form the roots of the movement he's pioneering, which even has a hashtag: #NoUI. In order to create better and more natural user interfaces, we must first "embrace natural processes" like the act of opening a door, and stop creating cumbersome apps to do the work for us or get in the way. "We're creating ovens so you can watch YouTube while you bake cookies," Krishna says.

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  • Mar 10, 2013

    Verge Staff

    Zen robots and augmented reality Porta Potties: exploring the 'Other Singularity' with Frog Design

    popper lead frog design
    popper lead frog design

    The folks from Frog Design have been throwing the official SXSW Interactive kickoff party for ten years. First it was just a chance for a few nerds to get drunk. Then it got so big, the fire department came and shut it down. Now it's become a sort of high tech art fair meant to spark a conversation about the future of the digital world.

    Frog was founded in the Black Forest of Germany, arriving in the States back in the 1980s, when Steve Jobs hired them to work on the design of the Apple II's portable case. They founded an office in Austin in the 1990s, as the company expanded from industrial design to digital work.

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  • Adrianne Jeffries

    Mar 10, 2013

    Adrianne Jeffries

    Banned from the internet for three hours in the middle of SXSW

    openshabbat640
    openshabbat640

    It was just after 6:30PM on Friday and still light outside when Jeremy Hollander, a Belgian entrepreneur who lives in San Francisco, strolled into one of the high-ceilinged, gold-hued ballrooms at the Hilton Austin wearing a suit and a dark blue yarmulke.

    The room was in disarray as hotel employees shook tablecloths over five rows of long tables, placed napkins, and hauled an offending electric-powered water cooler out of the room. They were setting up for the third annual #openShabbat dinner, held on the first night of the South by Southwest Interactive conference, and this year’s meal was expected to be almost three times bigger than last year’s.

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  • Ross Miller

    Mar 9, 2013

    Ross Miller

    Of course Google made a talking shoe for SXSW 2013 (video)

    Google Shoe
    Google Shoe

    Google has a knack for going big at SXSW. Last year, the company created an entire village near the Convention Center. This year, just outside the convention center, Google has opened a "playground." And what better way to experience the playground than with a shoe that taunts you with a male, British voice.

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  • Ross Miller

    Mar 9, 2013

    Ross Miller

    Small gestures, big impact: hands-on with Leap Motion's latest games and apps

    Leap SXSW
    Leap SXSW

    The last time we checked out the Leap Motion Controller (then known as "The Leap") we referred to it as "a Kinect on steroids." Since then, Leap has attracted an impressive amount of developer support and has announced a full retail launch on May 13th for $79.99 through major channels like Best Buy. We just had a chance to use the final hardware and some of the early third-party apps and games, and frankly, we're still very impressed — but it's still in its infancy.

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  • Ellis Hamburger

    Mar 9, 2013

    Ellis Hamburger

    Oculus Rift at SXSW: is virtual reality the Holy Grail of gaming?

    ellis-hamburger-oculus-rift-1020
    ellis-hamburger-oculus-rift-1020

    The SXSW Gaming Expo is preposterously loud. At one side of the room, a Starcraft tournament is reaching its climax, but on the other side, one group of guys is yelling louder. They sound like a basement full of adolescents discussing the newest Electronic Gaming Monthly cover story, or like the NINTENDO SIXTY-FOUR kid unwrapping his Christmas present.

    “Is the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality 3D headset, the future of gaming?” they ask. “Or, is it something bigger — the future of life on planet Earth?”

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  • Sean Hollister

    Mar 8, 2013

    Sean Hollister

    Watch this: Oculus Rift inventor and Cliff Bleszinski talk virtual reality at SXSWi

    Sean Hollister Oculus Rift STOCK
    Sean Hollister Oculus Rift STOCK

    We've called the Oculus Rift head-mounted display "the future of virtual reality." But what does that really mean? Perhaps you'd like to hear the answer, live on the air, from a panel of gaming luminaries. At 4PM PT today, you can join renowned game developers Chris Roberts (Wing Commander), Cliff Bleszinski (Gears of War), Paul Bettner (Words with Friends), and the inventor of the Oculus Rift himself, for a live conversation streaming to you direct from the SXSW Interactive festival in Austin, Texas.

    Check back here at 4PM PT (7PM ET) to hear their thoughts on all things VR.

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  • Ellis Hamburger

    Mar 8, 2013

    Ellis Hamburger

    MakerBot announces 3D 'Digitizer' prototype to scan your world, then print it out

    makerbotdigitizer
    makerbotdigitizer

    MakerBot founder Bre Pettis today announced the Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner prototype it intends to sell alongside its Replicator 3D printers. The scanner uses a combination of cameras and lasers to scan an object and create a digital file that can then be printed using one of MakerBot's replicators. The company says you won't need any experience with design or 3D modeling software to make use of the scanner, and wants to see it used by businesses, educational facilities, and in the home. The Digitizer will launch this fall, Pettis said.

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  • At SXSW, the stunts get wilder every year — and more disappointing

    yamtrader box
    yamtrader box

    At the end of February, a small number of people registered to attend the South By Southwest Interactive tradeshow received a white box stuffed with orange tissue paper and a mysterious object.

    "I am intrigued by this thing. I don't know if it’s good or bad," Brooke Hammerling, the founder of the boutique tech marketing agency Brew PR, told The Verge. "I got a mini yam." She paused and called to one of her employees. "What was the company called?"

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