South By Southwest was founded in 1987 and has over the years become notorious for bringing creatives together to celebrate their respective industries, namely music and film. Each SXSW conference serves as a prime destination for networking, entertainment, and a platform for innovation. The spirit of SXSW is to bring diverse people and topics together in order to facilitate creative discovery. This year SXSW took place from March 8th to the 17th and featured more technology than ever before. From a whole track of talks named Tech Industry and Enterprise to new technology being presented and used, tech reigned at SXSW 2019. A recurring theme was the continuous endeavor to achieve tech/life balance as well as how technology can aid in digital wellness. The conference brought to light the importance of having a healthy relationship with the digital world as well as how it’s changing the way we live our lives.
Before delving into the ways that companies and speakers at SXSW have brought awareness to a healthy tech/life balance, it’s important to understand digital wellness and what achieving the aforementioned balance really means. Digital wellness means spending the correct amount of time interacting and existing on- as well as offline. If we lose track of the time we’re spending plugged in we put ourselves at risk of digital addiction. The first step to avoiding digital addiction and achieving digital wellness and thus a healthy tech/life balance is to be honest with yourself about how much time you really spend online, as well as how much of this time is productive. The key word is a balance which means you do not have to eliminate technology from your life completely, you can actually use it to enhance your life and make it easier. From practicing mindfulness to taking conscious digital breaks, there are plenty of things we can do to maintain our digital health. Interestingly enough, tech companies have started creating innovations as well as apps that can help us.
Below we look at some of these things that were presented and discussed at SXSW.
One of the talks included Alex Spinelli, the Chief Technology Officer at LivePerson, speaking about the death of the website. As tech is all about innovation, the more we move forward the more we leave in the past. With artificial intelligent (AI) devices like Alexa and Siri, it is possible that websites will be totally replaced by them. Why? Because we want and can have a more dialectical relationship with our tech. So what does that mean for digital wellness and tech/life balance? For one it means that screen time will be cut down. If Spinelli’s prediction is accurate, we will no longer need to sit in front of a screen scrolling through data but can have it fed to us directly and verbally by our AI devices. This change is definitely becoming palpable with more and more companies introducing speech recognition AI. It’s a great example of how tech may be beginning to be present in a more convenient and healthy way in our lives.
A big hit at SXSW 2019 was Bose presenting their Bluetooth audio sunglasses, coined Wearables by Bose. The glasses have small microphones and speakers installed in them and their goal is to cut back on the time we spend looking down at our screens, especially when listening to music. They have categorized them as a sort of augmented reality (AR) experience. However, it would focus on sound rather than augmenting our vision. This new technology is designed to help people connect more with the world around them rather than with a screen, as the audio aspect has eliminated the need to look down. The Wearables are a step in the direction of why websites may become obsolete moving forward. At SXSW, Bose revealed partnerships with other brands, namely a guided meditation app, that demonstrated how “meditation could be augmented with instructions on guided and assessed head movements.” The sunglasses open up the door to Bose AR. Bose AR focuses on adding an audible layer of AI to our lives. The same way visual AI interacts with the real spaces around you, the Bluetooth system of Wearables will weave sounds into your real life activities.
SXSW’s openness and eagerness towards innovation also create a positive space for technology to grow in. This year the floor was opened to young tech innovators in an award competition called the Interactive Innovation Awards. This unique long-running competition started in June 2018, giving young tech revolutionaries a chance to share their creations. The view that SXSW has on technology is one that ties closely with creativity and shows tech in a positive light. Technology was presented as a vehicle to success rather than something that holds us back. This positive approach to innovation is a key factor in a healthy tech/life balance. Realizing that tech is going to be a part of our future whether we like it or not, and making sure we get the most positive experience out of it.
Ultimately we can achieve digital wellness with the help of new technology and we don’t need to cut ourselves off entirely from the digital world in order to have a healthy tech/life balance.
Editor’s note: our heart and soul go out to the victims of the shooting that took place in Austin the week of SXSW 2019.
Written by Delfina Forstmann