SXSW 2017 Sessions You Shouldn’t Miss

Here's what we're recommending you check out this weekend at SXSW, including 2 technical workshops led by our team

While the world is plenty occupied with current events of a political nature, members of the tech community await this weekend's SXSW. And like any good Viget tradition, we'll be sending our own small contingent to give talks, attend panels, conduct workshops, and administer high fives. In addition to highlighting our very self-promoted talks, here are 7 panels / talks we are targeting for 2017:

Cozy with Cookies: Our Brain & Behavioral Targeting

  • Recommended by: Ben Travis
  • When: Saturday, March 11, 12:30PM - 1:30PM
  • Where: Hyatt Regency Austin, Zilker Ballroom 3-4, 208 Barton Springs Rd.

Cookies are crumbs of information that we leave behind on the internet. According to a study published in the JCR, Oxford University Press, behavioral targeting can affect our sense of worth. Cookies act like comfort food for our brain. We can have a cozy relationship with our cookies in our little bubbles inside the Internet. But does that trap us inside our comfort zones? Is our world view getting distorted by personalization and the death of discovery? Are cookies creating echo chambers in our democracy? When does cozy become creepy? Should our self worth be defined by data? Should we get cozy with our cookies or should we break up with them? Find out the answers with our expert panel.

Brain Wearables

  • Recommended by: Justin Sinichko
  • When: Tuesday, March 14, 5:00PM - 6:00PM
  • Where: JW Marriot, Salon 6, 110 E 2nd St.

Tan Le is the Founder & CEO of EMOTIV, a bio-informatics company that has developed a breakthrough BCI technology, taking data directly from the brain and translating it to action. This means that brain waves can be used to control devices - such as keyboards, robots or wheelchairs - which is life altering for those with physical disabilities. Now, Tan is going beyond brain waves and working to classify thoughts and expressions with whole brain sensing. This can be used for early detection of neurological disorders such as autism, epilepsy, and others. Join Tan to learn about the secrets of unlocking the brain’s electrical code, and the potentials and pitfalls of this new research.

How to Uber-ize Public Transit to Save it

  • Recommended by: Ben Eckerson
  • When: Monday, March 13, 3:30PM - 4:00PM
  • Where: JW Marriot, Salon 7, 110 E 2nd St.

What do ridesharing apps, autonomous vehicles and outdated infrastructure have in common? According to some, all are contributing factors to the ultimate demise of public transit. With big changes to the transportation landscape underway, what does this mean for public transit and the future of mobility? Does mass transit even stand a chance of surviving, much less thriving?

The answer lies in optimizing multi-modal transit and creating the best path for riders’ entire journey across all options. By taking a user-first approach that Uber and others have successfully implemented, transit providers can blow up the barriers that keep people from using mass transit in the first place.

Are We Alone? A Discussion on Space Exploration

  • Recommended by: Nate Hunzaker
  • When: Wednesday, March 15, 11:00AM - 12:00PM
  • Where: JW Marriot, Salon 6, 110 E 2nd St.

"Are we alone?" While conversation tends to concern E.T., new science instruments, and visionaries with big ideas, we are getting closer to discovering whether life exists beyond Earth. Renowned astrophysicists Patrick McCarthy, Taft Armandroff, Jayne Birkby and Katie Morzinski will discuss the challenges facing us when we search the universe for life, what technology we need to be successful, and what it could mean for humanity if we ultimately discover we are not alone. Join this session for a discussion on how recent astronomy findings, such as the Earth-like Proxima b orbiting our nearest star, will be explored with the coming generation of extremely large telescopes.

The Internet of Things You Don't Own

  • Recommended by: Eli Fatsi
  • When: Wednesday, March 15, 11:00AM - 12:00PM
  • Where: JW Marriot, Salon 7, 110 E 2nd St.

What does it mean to own a device today? From appliances to vehicles to medical implants, the products we buy are built around software code. But if you don't own and can't control that code, do you really own your device? We live in a world in which our coffee makers defy our instructions, our vehicles can't be repaired, and our medical devices can't be modified. We've even seen entire product lines, like the Revolv, remotely disabled through software. This panel will consider the legal tools that make this sort of control over consumer behavior possible and the legal reforms that can restore our ownership of the things we buy.

Bringing Magic to Smart Environments & Wired Spaces

  • Recommended by: Justin Sinichko
  • When: Sunday, March 12, 3:30PM - 4:30PM
  • Where: Austin Convention Center, Next Stage - Exhibit Hall 4, 500 E Cesar Chavez

Past the edge of the phone screen, in the empty space behind a laptop display, there's a whole world out there. Guess who lives in that space? Your users.

What could we build if our canvas was the user's own environment? With new sensors, display technologies, and input methods, we have the pieces we need to create smart, interactive environments that begin to seem magical.

This talk will look at how two pioneering startups -- Oblong Industries and Two Bit Circus -- harness this kind of technology to educate, to entertain, and to delight people. Join us as we pry off the goggles of virtual reality and augmented reality, and step back into real reality.

Let's Watch A Grown Man Eat Chicken For An Hour

  • Recommended by: Ben Travis
  • When: Wednesday, March 15, 11:00AM - 12:00PM
  • Where: JW Marriot, Salon D, 110 E 2nd St.

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response video, made to elicit tingling and feelings of well-being. Social eating channels, where people who love to watch other people eat, gather by the millions. And a blog that’s nothing more than a woman pressing her face into different kinds of bread. The ways we connect with people are changing all the time. And this time, it’s in a big, weird way. Let’s uncover the appeal of what, on the surface, seems entirely unappealing. And, that clients are starting to embrace. We'll see examples. We'll hear the conclusions of a gifted psychologist. And then for dessert, we'll launch a new one of our own. All against a backdrop of a man. Eating chicken. For an hour.

Our Talks

This year we have two intensive technical workshops, that are unfortunately completely booked up (we are sorry!). If you aren't one of the lucky registrants, we’d love to meet up for a beer or some tacos so contact us.

What JavaScript Everywhere Really Looks Like

Recent advances now allow us build for every platform with JavaScript. React Native for mobile. Electron for desktop. React for web. And Node.js for backend.

Single language development is a CTO’s holy grail. Gone are the days of paying four teams to build the same thing in different languages. Here are the days of hyper-efficient dev where business logic is implemented once, then shared everywhere.

Or are they?

In this session we’ll give you the no BS guided tour of what a real JavaScript everywhere ecosystem looks like. No theories or concepts. Just real life experience and working code. We’ll answer all your questions so you can make JS-related stack decisions with confidence.

Intro to Connected Devices

This crash course in hardware hacking will teach the basics of connected hardware. Participants will learn electronic fundamentals during this hands-on course and develop a wifi-enabled project that can blast the web with data or be controlled remotely. Taught by Viget Lab hardware developers Justin Sinichko and Eli Fatsi, this workshop will build on top of Particle's Photon, an Arduino-like development kit that abstracts much of the complexity around connected devices. All participants will get their own Particle Photon to keep in order build their device, along with the components necessary for the project. Note: This workshop is only available to the first 50 registrants.

We hope to see you in Austin!

Ben Eckerson

Ben thinks big and dreams up digital strategies and campaigns for clients such as Conservation International, WRAL, and Duke from our Durham, NC, office.

More articles by Ben