Every March, the city of Austin, Texas is converted into a colossal, urban collection of brand activations, tech talks, concerts, film screenings, parties, and more. The annual event has a name: SXSW.

Last year, News & Trends by HubSpot attended SXSW -- more formally known as a multi-day series of conferences & festival around the interactive, film, and music industries -- where we learned about consumer trust, how to "win" social media, immersive storytelling, and even a mind-reading Google Home app.

This week, we're once again traveling to Austin for SXSW 2019, where we'll join creative professionals from all corners of the world gather to learn even more about immersive storytelling, the trends that support it, and the technology -- like mixed reality and multimedia content -- that make it possible.

Here's what we're looking forward to seeing the most.

Virtual Cinema

The SXSW Virtual Cinema exhibition is a showcase of film projects produced and screened in virtual reality (VR) -- with some pieces adding in elements of augmented and mixed reality (AR and MR).

One of the core elements -- and benefits -- of VR is its power to provide an immersive experience for the end user, whether it's for entertaining (e.g., film or gaming), education (e.g., learning about a new place or period of history), or enterprise training (e.g., learning how to repair machinery).

While most of us may not be tasked with producing short films in VR as part of our day-to-day responsibilities, the experiences created in this capacity illustrate how creative professionals across a number of industries can use this technology to tell a brand story.

Over the past year, a number of manufacturers have announced or released virtual or mixed reality headsets that can satisfy one or several of the above use cases -- and at SXSW, we're especially eager to see how film can create an unprecedented amount of viewer immersion. And while most of us may not be tasked with producing short films in VR as part of our day-to-day responsibilities, the experiences created in this capacity illustrate how creative professionals across a number of industries can use this technology to tell a brand story.

A project of note is Mars Home Planet: a VR cinematic product that gives viewers an in-depth look at what the planet Mars might be like if one million people lived there, by guiding them through such storytelling elements and experiences as the "Martian Community Onboarding Center" when they "arrive" on Mars.

Capturing The Moment: A Conversation With Instagram Founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger

Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger made headlines -- and, arguably, waves -- when the parted ways with Facebook, which acquired their app in 2012, last fall. 

At SXSW this year, Systrom and Krieger will speak to how they came to create an 

So, what are we hoping to hear from Systrom and Krieger? For starters, we hope to hear some reflection on the evolution of the app they founded -- which has grown from a small platform for novice photographers and designers to visually share their work, to a network of 1 billion global users who share myriad moments from their lives in multiple formats. 

Of course, we also hope to hear what's next for the entrepreneurs, what they hope to create next that will serve the creative community -- and what really happened before they left Facebook.

Screen Shot 2019-03-06 at 2.55.02 PMSource: SXSW

The Second Golden Age of Audio: Podcasting 

In terms of streaming and downloadable entertainment, it seems as those podcasting might be the 2019 "it" trend. From Spotify's acquisition of narrative podcast network Gimlet and distribution platform Anchor, to this month's launch of Luminary, a subscription-based podcast startup offering premium content -- audio doesn't appear to be bowing out of the entertainment landscape any time soon. 

Content experts from Spotify, Gimlet, and Anchor will gather at SXSW to discuss how audio can catch up to the market worth of video -- which it lags behind, despite people reportedly spending the same amount of time consuming both.

While it seems like the discussion is designed to center around episodic podcast content creation and how creative professionals can best distribute the finished product, we'll also be listening to what lessons can be translated to a marketing- or growth-driven environment and mindset. After all, as the official event description says itself, "Together [panelists will] discuss the enormous opportunity in audio and why they believe the next phase of growth starts with podcasting."

1_48ZPhv86fgGvSJJQzZ5ROwSource: Anchor

The Snap House

In its capacity as an official sponsor of SXSW 2019, Snapchat is taking over Austin bar Parlor Room to create the Snap House: a brand activation where Snapchat will offer a series of talks and demos on how to make the best use of its tools, the history of AR (and how its technology played a role in its development), and how visual content became a key part of positive virality.

Of course, it wouldn't be a true SXSW brand activation if BBQ wasn't involved -- so Snapchat will be offering the Texas culinary staple at some of its sessions.

Bose AR and Frames Popup

When it comes to familiarity with AR, many immediately think of its visual use cases -- e.g., the super-imposing of animated characters onto real-world surroundings via a mobile device screen for games like Pokémon Go, or navigational arrows pointing you to your destination through a new, not-yet-released Google Maps feature.

That's why it seemed as though many eyebrows raised when Bose, a manufacturer of such audio hardware as speakers and noise-cancelling headphones, unveiled Frames: a first-of-its-kind pair of audio AR glasses. 

Frames, the company says, "function like truly wireless headphones" that don't superimpose visuals onto the user's physical surroundings -- but rather, emit high-quality sound through the glasses, which are also equipped for voice commands (via such assistants as Siri and Google Assistant) that can make calls and skip songs, among other capabilities.

So, why does this matter? The Frames, should they significantly permeate the wearable technology market, will serve as another distribution platform -- where users can consume the aforementioned audio content of the future (read: podcasts), and could become another smart device for which specific branded skills or apps can be created. It begs the question: Should growth companies be thinking about audio content distribution now (probably), and what would that content sound like?

Upon its first announcement of the Frames debut last December, Bose noted that announcements about the company's AR technology will be shared at SXSW 2019.

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