Though it's only Monday morning, much South by Southwest madness has already transpired: We've traversed miles outside town to HBO's legendary West World activation (video to come on that), faked a ride on a private jet at Bravo's "InstaCON" activation for its show "Imposters" and sat in on Uber chief brand officer Bozoma Saint John's chat on Sunday (we also spoke to Michael Barbaro, host of the popular New York Times poidcast, "The Daily").
Read below for that, and more, then keep checking in here today for SXSW updates throughout the day.
Monday, 5 p.m.
Explosions rock Austin
Austin was shaken Monday after a pair of package explosions killed a 17-year-old boy and injured others. Police say the explosions were likely related to another deadly explosion that happened 10 days ago, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
The first of Monday's attacks killed a 17-year-old boy and wounded a 40-year-old woman, both of them black.
Police said the incidents, which occurred northeast and southeast of downtown Austin, didn't appear to be related to South by Southwest, the Statesman reported.
Downtown near the convention center, most people seemed unfazed by the explosions that had happened hours earlier. One festival goer asked if Ad Age reporters knew any details after he fielded a concerned phone call.
But most people I asked were surprised they hadn't heard anything about what had happened — with all the noise and social media posts around the event, it was easy to miss that anything had happened.
At this time @Austin_Police investigators don't believe that the recent explosions are connected to #SXSW. Visitors and residents, enjoy your week but stay vigilant. If you see something, say something by calling 9-1-1— Austin HSEM (@AustinHSEM) March 12, 2018
SXSW is heartbroken by the explosions in Austin earlier this month and today. Our thoughts are with the victims and those affected. @Austin_Police are conducting ongoing investigations related to these incidents. Please stay safe, and if you see something, say something. https://t.co/ptMu3fylec— SXSW (@sxsw) March 12, 2018
At this time @Austin_Police investigators don't believe that the recent explosions are connected to #SXSW. Visitors and residents, enjoy your week but stay vigilant. If you see something, say something by calling 9-1-1— Austin Texas (@austintexasgov) March 12, 2018
— Megan Graham
Monday, 1:30 p.m.
'Nolite te bastardes carborundorum' neck tats
Hulu's "The Handmaid's Tale" promotion at last year's SXSW was evocative and (to some) creepy — It sent out groups of women in red robes to silently walk the festival.
This year, that all goes up in flames. Literally.
The popular show has returned to SXSW, but this time, with seven installations dotted around the conference and its vicinity. Hulu tapped LeadDog Marketing Group to put the activation together. The boxes, which contain robes and caps with the hashtag, #ResistSister, actually go up in flames at night.
The boxes are flanked by two brand ambassadors, who pass out temporary tattoos of "Nolite te bastardes carborundorum" — which in the show roughly translates to "Don't let the bastards grind you down." For super fans who seem particularly enthusiastic, the ambassadors hand out secret mail, a message with some Flying Wish Paper.
— Megan Graham
1:18 p.m. Monday
Pulling back the curtain on the NYT's 'Daily'
We got the opportunity to sit down with Michael Barbaro, host of the runaway smash New York Times "Daily" podcast about what he's learned a year in to audio reportage.
"The Daily was a chance to reevaluate what a reporter was because you were hearing them do their journalism — you were hearing them tell a story," Barbaro tells us. "It was just a totally different experience.I don't think we understood when we started it — though we do now a year later — that it would be such a powerful way of transforming storytelling at the Times."
Watch the whole video (about audio!) here.
12 p.m. Monday
Vote 4 Elon
Elon Musk became the second most talked-about subject at Southby (HBO's "Westworld" project was hands-down the first) this weekend when he announced a surprise session, where he discussed SpaceX and space travel. Looks like he left quite the impression. —Megan Graham
3 p.m. Sunday
Augmented reality gets real
SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk dominated headlines after making a surprise-ish appearance in Austin, telling attendees that a space vehicle could land on Mars as early as next year.
On the ground, however, the real star is augmented reality, which appears finally ready for prime time in terms of how consumers engage with brands.
A stroll through the conference's exhibition floor showed diverse use cases in how the tech could be applied. Accenture rented out its first "house" at SXSW this year. It was two levels and boasts an entire floor dedicated to AR experiences. Some of those included problems it wants to help solve for the NFL (designing plays) and others were for Whole Foods (creating an AR app that shows nutritional info for products in store).
Yet it was Sony and its "Wow Studios" that captured the most early buzz at SXSW.
The company transformed an entire warehouse with its cutting-edge tech, much of which focused on augmented reality. In the end, it was an air hockey table that garnered the most buzz in Austin, at least when it comes to AR. imagine a large, circular hockey table, and the table itself is a screen. The puck shoots across the screen whenever a person "hits" it with their paddle.
The setup allows a trio of users to swat the virtual puck, which makes the same sound as a real-life air hockey. At the same time, the user also "feels" the virtual puck being hit through the paddles' haptic feedback. The end result is incredible, as the fast-paced game looks and feels just like the real deal.
Shigeki Mori, general manager of brand strategy development at Sony, tells Ad Age that high-speed vision sensors detect the movement of the paddle and puck, and the technology used for the game was originally developed for Sony's effort's with autonomous vehicles.
"Everybody knows air hockey when it comes to how to win and how to lose," Mori says. "You can feel the vibration when you are 'hitting' the puck. This is a type of magic experience for the consumer's point of view."
As Mori explains, Sony set up its SXSW installation to capture feedback from visitors while also showcasing its cutting-edge tech. "People will start to ask, 'How do you make this happen?' he says. "This is a great starting point and we can then explain the technology behind it."
2 p.m. Sunday
No matter how many millions of dollars you spent on an activation at SXSW, no matter how strong the cocktails or delicious the food, you can be certain of one thing: If animals are involved, people will be talking about it.
Goats and puppies were a nice respite from the madness.
12:30 p.m. Sunday
Ass-kicking in sequins
Uber chief brand officer Bozoma Saint John joined NBC News's Jo Ling Kent for a talk called "Break & Re-Make Your Brand with Uber," which addressed Saint John's journey this year following brand turmoil at the rideshare giant. Asked about her decision to join Uber when she did, Saint John said she doesn't scare easily.
"I'm the kind of woman who wears, like, frickin sequins in the middle of the daytime, you know what I mean? I'm not really afraid of a lot," she said. "I intend to step right in there with my sequins and bust it right open."
9 p.m. Saturday
Overheard in Austin
"Disney is nuts when it comes to its IP," says one Disney executive on how protective his own company is with its intellectual property. "I mean, there is someone who is just the senior VP of Darth Vader."
6 p.m. Saturday
What the news sounds like
The New York Times set up shop at Irene's, a trendy restaurant in downtown Austin, for "The truth has a voice," a variety of programming from Times journalists (plus cocktails and, yes, guac). Reporter George Slefo sat down with "The Daily" host Michael Barbaro and assistant managing editor Sam Dolnick for a chat on what goes into creating the popular podcast. The company also announced its first narrative nonfiction podcast, "Caliphate," a deep dive into ISIS with reporter Rukmini Callimachi.