SXRWest – A Roundup of 5 Amazing Activations at Austin’s SXSW Interactive Festival

With almost 35,000 attendees, not to mention some dude named Barack Obama, getting ready to innovate, engage and disrupt the city of Austin Texas, the SXSW Music, Film and Interactive festival is a sweet spot for big tech brands to make a splash IRL with some killer creative. And while there were plenty of street teams stuffing flyers, food, and Vivarin into our hands (really, enough with the Vivarin), here’s a roundup of some excellent activations in the first days of #sxsw.

Best Place to Get Lucky: Google’s I’m feeling lucky prize claw. Stuffed with goodies from the nearly trivial Google cardboard to more drool-worthy Android tablets and phones, this oversized arcade game invited players to drop a mechanical claw into a pile of plastic balls in hopes of snagging a prize. While the Claw of Luck was unkind to us and many others, participants seemed quite happy to wait in line for their crack at the bonanza, eyeing with anticipation each cheer and victory dance from those who won. See a video here:

Best think and drink: IBM’s cognitive studio. While Google’s DeepMind was walloping South Korean Go master Lee Se-dol, IBM’s artificial intelligence, Watson, was busy slinging drinks and learning another game of intense strategy: rock, paper, scissors. Watson’s creative talents were on display as well, writing music on the spot and painting an infographic portrait of attendees based on their twitter feed. Oh, and the bar slinging? Watson made a personal drink (with a little help from some humans) for each attendee based on their profile. The results for our group’s libations were mixed, but we’ll hope Watson develops his palate after downloading a few more petabytes from the service industry.

Best place to get branded: Harley Quinn’s Tattoo Parlor. On day one of the festival, we were surprised to hear that our Social Strategist had gotten a tattoo. A real one. For free. As part of an activation for Suicide Squad. Huh? Suicide Squad, a Batman franchise, andom runs deep, so fanboys and girls were thrilled with the chance to get inked with their favorite character. Josh’s choice? Deadshot. As for us, we’re waiting to decide which Ghostbuster to get tatted after the film drops this summer.

Best place to hug a man in uniform: TIE Fighter Special Event. Looking for your copy of The Force Awakens on Blu-ray or DVD? Yeah, keep waiting, but in the meantime you can have a photo and a hug from a storm trooper next to a real damn TIE fighter. Parked in a muddy lot next to some food trucks, it’s not exactly Tatooine. But with all the scum and villainy in evidence on Rainey street, maybe it does resemble Mos Eisley?

Best Meme IRL: Grumpy Cat at Friskies #CatConcoctions. While Austin was brimming with utopian sentiment about a tech empowered tomorrow, haters still gotta hate. Fortunately Grumpy Cat (real name, Tardar Sauce) was on hand to cool all the hype with her withering, merciless disappointment. Check out this cool VR? Whatever. Wanna hear about the Pharmagenomic revolution. Grumpy cat does not give a f*ck. Hey, wait. Why is a dour feline at a tech festival instigating crazy long lines to see her? In a word, #disruption.

Written by: Thomas Cobb, Senior Art Director

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