"We're giving the world a sixth sense," Highlight CEO Paul Davison says. "It's serendipity come to life in a social-media setting."
Clik, a new TV platform and downloadable app, lets you take control of any Internet-connected screen that has a browser, using your smartphone as the remote control. For example, at a party you could show YouTube video on your friend's TV by scanning your phone (iPhone or Android) across the TV.
Marvel Comics announced a digitally enhanced comic line and an augmented-reality app for iOS and Android devices that unlocks DVD extra-style content from print comic books, starting with Avengers vs. X-Men #1, out April 4.
The importance of SXSW evolved over the years as reports of success stories that unfurled at the festival multiplied. In 2007, an as-yet-unheard-of social-media company named Twitter came to SXSW. "Who could imagine five years later it's a personal broadcast network for so many people," Forrest says.
Two years later, lightning struck again when Foursquare launched at SXSW. While the 15 million-member check-in-based app has not quite matched Twitter's 350 million, "It is heralded in this new wave of location-based technology, which we will see more of at SXSW 2012," Forrest says.
Companies hoping to get a bump out of SXSW include heavy hitters such as Microsoft, Samsung and Google, which literally built a village to make an indelible impression at SXSW.
Google Village is an enclave of four low-slung buildings on the outer edge of Austin. Typically a desolate outpost during the day in previous shows, the four-building campus -- modeled after the famous Googleplex headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. -- was home to Android House, Maps House, Developers House and Discovery House.
Google's visible presence marked a change in its SXSW strategy, as rivals Facebook and Microsoft ratchet up their activities at the increasingly influential show. The ersatz Google campus in Texas is host to a Lego hackathon, readings, acoustic music set and comedy show.
Even the U.S. Army has invaded Austin, with a panel scheduled for today on how soldiers in the trenches deploy social media.
Still, the annual meet-up has a mellower and funkier feel than other annual trade gatherings, such as the International Consumer Electronics Show. Companies post bulletins on walls and support columns, a practice more likely seen on a college campus than a convention.
And the dress code ranges from business casual to slacker attire, which makes sense -- the 1991 low-budget indie film Slacker was based and filmed here. The film's director, Richard Linklater, remains a festival regular, and he is on a panel today talking about his new TV series, Up to Speed, which is coming to Hulu later this year.
New Start-up Village
To continue fueling fledgling enterprises, SXSW Interactive has a new Start-up Village this year, part of festival operators' hopes to keep SXSW as "the place to get that initial push that will hopefully move (start-ups) toward adoption," Forrest says.
Even well-known brands come to buff their image. CNN was dishing out free food, at least to attendees invited inside the CNN Grill. And NBC's Today show, participating in its first festival, recruited a local food-truck chef to provide free bacon, jam and egg breakfast biscuits to attendees.
The Munchie Mobile moves to Sixth Street to satisfy late-night partiers with other snacks. "This is where people are talking about new innovations, and there's really great thought leadership going on here," says Today digital director Jen Brown. "It is really important to us to be a part of that."
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