Each year, the festival South By Southwest (SXSW) celebrates tech, film, and music in downtown Austin. Focal has attended the interactive festival since 2012; every year brings new adventures, people, and, of course, amazing food & drink (we didn’t complain about the deep-fried avocados we happened upon at Mighty Cone).
The gif here features shots from our Focal Experience booth. Check out the Locus Workstation these festival goers took for a spin here.
Here are some companies and ideas that blew us away at SXSW Interactive.
1. Local Roots, aka Food of the Future
Our neighbor at the interactive festival, Local Roots, drew a heavy crowd to its booth, though “booth” is an understatement–instead, the LA-based indoor farming company showed off one of their mobile vertical farms housed in a 40-foot shipping container. Local Roots’ water-efficient, pesticide-free, hydroponic “Terrafarms” can produce up to five acres worth of food. Grow lights installed in the farms help the plants thrive; when we toured the container, we couldn’t help but smile at the rows of butterhead lettuce chilling out in psychedelic purple light.
2. Paper and Packaging
The Paper and Packaging Board, a USDA-approved not-for-profit, was created to grow demand for paper-based packaging in our increasingly paperless world. Their SXSW booth, a showcase of contemporary, innovative paper design, included a cardboard bed for infants, paper virtual reality goggles, and other curiosities. Watch Daniel, our marketing analyst, play a set of cardboard drums here.
Pincause partners with artists to raise money for important organizations like the ACLU. Run by Michigan-based couple Kate Lind, 32, and Nate Stevens, 30, you can purchase beautiful $5 pins on the Pincause site to help raise money for causes like women’s health; one pin designed by illustrator Penelope Dullaghan, which features the American Sign Language sign for “I love you,” was a big hit at the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C.
Perhaps the coolest virtual reality experience at SXSW this year, Birdly is a full-body simulator that lets participants feel what it’s like to fly. Once you’re strapped in and goggled (face down), a tiny fan blows wind at your face as you tilt and flap your arms to soar up or down over a sweeping view. Weird to watch someone try it, and even weirder to experience it–and we mean this in the best way possible.
Ofo, a “non-docking” bike-sharing platform, has a fleet of more than 1,000,000 bicycles across ~40 cities around the globe. The Focal team tried one (for free!) during SXSW, and Martin may or may not have taken it for a spin around our booth a few times. The Beijing-based service has over 20 million users, explaining why it’s been dubbed the “uber for bikes.”