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SXSW 2015 (Pt. 1): Check Yourself Before You Tech Yourself

Somewhere in the middle of the overstuffed burrito of digital visions and futuristic insight that was the 2015 South By Southwest Interactive Festival, a small but inescapable truth was buried: as a society, we might not be the rapidly evolving tech mavens we think we are.

We've created a super-powered monster. It's the beast of computer technology, capable of helping us in so many ways that we are still straining to identify them all. We are the creator, in awe of our own creation.

Consider this: Our primary interface with the computer hasn't changed significantly in almost 50 years — it is still the keyboard and mouse (yes, the mouse was introduced in 1968). Move the functions to a touchscreen and they are still fundamentally intact.

We like to portray our daily life as increasingly resembling sci-fi when, in fact, many of the commonly cited tech advances are still in the realm of mere -fi. At a discussion panel entitled "Humanizing Digital," SXSW panelists readily admitted that voice-recognition technology still leaves a lot to be desired. Sales of Google Glass have been halted because, although the device could stick the infinite power of the internet directly in your eye, it couldn't overcome making you look like a smug doofus.

So what does this mean for you and your brand? All brands strive for relevance; many seek to be "forward-thinking." But the number of unused or misused Facebook and Twitter accounts littering the socialsphere testifies to the fact that it pays to do your homework.

One way to do that — visit SXSW and see what's what. Google Glass is gone but not dead, and wearables are the trend of the year as leading developers attempt to make technology as lived-in and comfortable as your favorite shirt — literally.

Stephen Lake, co-founder/CEO of Thalmic Labs, demonstrated interactive forearm bands that allow users to control a computer cursor and other technology with simple hand and arm gestures. He went on to show a discarded prototype of a device that allowed the blind to navigate obstacles while walking. It was a bulky and unwieldy mechanism... but one can imagine how the technology, once partnered with the right execution — say, something like Google Glass — could revolutionize the world.

Healthcare is one of the most intriguing areas of possibility for wearables to make their way into the mainstream. For while you might hate Google Glass after the hipster wearing it rides his fixed-gear bike over your toe, you'll be less likely to rush to judgment when your doctor is using Google Glass to help locate a blood clot in your leg.

The point is that a smart brand will seek out technology that presents relevant synergies of possibility and demand. Taking the time and effort to slather packaging in QR codes that link to augmented reality demos will be a waste of time if the audience hates using smartphones. New technology shouldn't steal the spotlight from your product, it should be the spotlight itself.