Step Towards Sci-Fi: AI and BCI Insights From SXSWby@cigdemoztabak
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Step Towards Sci-Fi: AI and BCI Insights From SXSW

by Cigdem OztabakApril 2nd, 2024
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MIT Tech Review president Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau laid out a list of ten tech breakthroughs that will shake up our daily lives and how we work. Exascale Computers can do a quintillion operations per second. The Daniels, aka Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan, discussed why they make films.
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Imagine we're stepping into a sci-fi movie, but it's real life. That's the vibe at SXSW sessions, where tomorrow's ideas feel like they're unfolding today.

In one of the first talks I caught at SXSW this year, Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau, the big boss at MIT Technology Review, laid out a list of ten tech breakthroughs. She's betting these will seriously shake up our daily lives and how we work.

President of MIT Tech Review- Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau

Here's the scoop on what made her list:

  • AI for Everything: It's like AI's about to be in everything we touch.

  • Super Efficient Solar Panels: Think sun power on steroids.

  • Apple Vision Pro: This one got everyone buzzing. ( or advertising..)

  • Weight Loss Medicines: No gym? No problem, maybe.

  • Advanced Geothermal Systems: It's about getting cozy with Earth's heat.

  • Chips: But not the snack kind.

  • First Gene Editing Therapy: Sounds like sci-fi, but it's real.

  • Exascale Computers: Big word, even bigger deal.

  • Heat Pumps: They're hot, literally.

  • Twitter Killers: After Elon Musk stirred the pot with X, new social networks are popping up trying to take the throne.

What Are Exascale Computers?

These beasts can do a quintillion operations per second. Yes, that's a lot of zeros. Elizabeth thinks these computers will change the game for everyone, not just the science folks. Imagine cracking problems or discovering stuff that seemed out of reach before. She believes we'll see how these computers can be more accessible to regular folks soon.

The Brave New Future of the Recent Past

Brent Reidy from the New York Public Library kicked off a session with a throwback to Plato and a chat about how our stories, especially around AI, need a fresh, human-centered twist. It's all about the power of storytelling and finding new ways to talk about artificial intelligence that matters to us as people.

The next day, I caught a keynote with The Daniels, aka Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan. These guys are the brains behind "Everything Everywhere All at Once," which won seven Oscars. They discussed why they make films and how storytelling is core to being human. Kwan shared his unease about AI in filmmaking, hinting at excitement and worry about what's to come.

The Brave New Future of the Recent Past

Brent Reidy's dive into Plato's cave allegory at SXSW wasn't just a trip back to Philosophy 101. It turned out to be a sneak peek into a theme I'd bump into repeatedly at the event: the sheer power of storytelling. Especially the kind we need right now about AI—stories about us, the humans, at the heart of it all.

Getty images.

This moment was like a heads-up that at SXSW, amidst all the tech talk, there's this big conversation about how we tell stories in the age of artificial intelligence. And it's not just any stories, but those that zoom in on the human experience, making sure we're not just talking tech for tech's sake but connecting it to what it means for us, living in this world, right here, right now.

The Rise of Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI)

Even though the idea of a wearable device that processes the electrical signals in your brain and spits out real-time data might still feel like a page ripped from a sci-fi novel, we're seeing this tech grow leaps and bounds every single day. And now, it's inching closer to becoming something we might see in the market, not just in movies.

During a "Your Brain in Artificial Intelligence: Neurotech's New Horizons" session at SXSW, Adam Molnar from Neurable shared how they're crafting headsets equipped with BCI tech. These aren't your average headsets, though. They're designed to track how focused you are on a task. The cool part? They might even help you improve at focusing, theoretically teaching us how to tune into what we're doing with laser precision.

Adam dished out details about these demo headsets that haven't hit the shelves yet, expressing his strong belief that BCI gadgets will be part of our everyday lives pretty soon. This is a hint that the future of how we interact with our devices, and maybe even how we understand our own brains, is about to shift in a big way.

AI Isn't a Usurper of Human Creativity; it's a Compliment That Enriches it.

In an invigorating exploration of the intersection between artificial intelligence and marketing, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel titled in Austin. The session was with marketers Justin Day and Anne Ahola Ward.

Anne Ahola Ward, Justin Day, Cigdem Oztabak

Our discussion explored AI's transformative impact on marketing, unwrapping layers of how this technology reshapes strategies, content creation, customer engagement, and more. The panelists shared insights, shedding light on how AI tools, like the Gamma app , demonstrated, are revolutionizing the way marketing agencies craft presentations, proposals, websites, or visuals. Companies, in turn, are encouraged to foster an environment of learning and experimentation, allowing their teams to engage with these 'new tools’ and unlock their full potential.

SXSW’24 Startup Pitching Competition

Watching the SXSW Pitch 2024, presented by KPMG, was a real treat. The place was packed. This year, the big themes among the showcased innovations were artificial intelligence integration, industry-specific solutions, and projects focused on sustainability and environmental impact.

The competition was international, with startups from Belgium, Britain, Estonia, France, Israel, the Netherlands, South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

Category Winners:

AI, Robotics, and Voice: (San Francisco, CA) Enterprise and Smart Data: (Santa Clara, CA) Entertainment, Media, and Content: OpusClip (Redwood City, CA) Extended Reality and Web3: Applix (Austin, TX) Food, Nutrition, and Health: STMPatch (Storrs, CT) Future of Work: (Oakland, CA) Innovative World Technologies: Cephable (Boston, MA) Smart Cities, Transportation, and Logistics: Lotus (San Jose, CA) Student Startup: Paradigm Robotics (Austin, TX)

"Best in Show" at the SXSW Pitch 2024, went to OpusClip. Winners bagged a cash prize and earned two badges for next year's SXSW conference. However, perhaps the biggest win was the chance to present to a massive audience of SXSW attendees and potential investors.

From 2009 to 2023, over 93% of the 647 companies participating in the SXSW Pitch have secured around $23.2 billion (excluding undisclosed grants, angel, and seed funding).

SXSW 2024 once again proved it's more than just a tech and innovation event; it's a preview of tomorrow that already has us all buzzing about next year. And for those already looking forward to the next chapter, mark your calendars: SXSW 2025 is set for March 7-15, 2025. It's never too early to start planning for another round of inspiring discussions and groundbreaking ideas!

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