SXSW offers ‘brainy’ events highlighting emerging technology, creative ideas


Keun-Woo Lee

Austin’s annual South By Southwest festival is the ultimate playground for techies, film gurus and music aficionados. The Interactive portion of the festival never ceases to impress, highlighting emerging technologies and creative ideas. However, the sheer number of events may disorient students. This year, avoid the overwhelming schedule and save your cognition for these brainy events. Scroll down past our graphic guide for longer explanations of the events.

Infographic by Kelly Smith | Daily Texan Staff

To learn how to lead:

How to Use Neurobiology to Make a Successful Pitch

  • Friday, March 11 
  • 11:00 a.m. — 1:00 p.m.
  • Access: Interactive Badge, Gold Badge, Platinum Badge
  • The major key to success is understanding physiology.

Just let John Bates, CEO of Executive Speaking Success and Business Consulting, explain.

“Something that people don’t think about enough is that everybody … is constantly communicating,” Bates said. “It’s taken for granted.” 

He uses his work with NASA and TED speakers to explain why intelligent people may lack communication skills. 

“You got a bunch of logical people, who often get very frustrated. … Well, guess what? Communicating with human beings is not logical — it’s biological,” Bates said. 

Clear communication allows students to exert greater influence on others, according to Bates.

“If all other things are equal, the better communicator will win,” Bates said. At this upcoming workshop, break down the physiology behind human interaction. 

Insider tip: Use “SXSW 2016” as a coupon code for $300 off a Single User License of “Executive Speaking Success,” Bates’ online video course.

  • To understand the limits of the mind:
  • Attention, Perception and Memory
  • Sunday, March 13 
  • 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
  • Access: Interactive Badge, Gold Badge, Platinum Badge

The way technology affects attention, perception and memory is relevant to everyone, especially millennials. Katherine Moore, assistant professor of psychology at Arcadia University, is the solo speaker for the event she describes as a brief, fun blast into cognitive psychology.

The talk will highlight how humans interact with technology and its effect on our daily lives.

“We have a lot of limitations that we don’t realize we have,” Moore said. “We tend to think that everything that we see with our eyes, we’re going to take in, and that anything we’re seeing is really what’s out there.”

For the business-minded:

  • Hook ’Em: The Psychology of Persuasive Products
  • Monday, March 14 
  • 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
  • Access: Interactive Badge, Gold Badge, Platinum Badge
  • Gain knowledge on what it takes to cause waves in the tech industry.

The event will explore why some apps, such as Candy Crush, Facebook or Instagram dominate, while others fall out of the picture. Roger Dooley, founder of Dooley Direct LLCDooley, explains the secret of appeal.

“It’s not a ‘ding’ on your phone — it’s more of an emotional state like ‘Gee, I’m bored,’” Dooley said. 

The world’s top experts in persuasive design are here to teach students how to hack the human mind to create engaging brands, according to Roger Dooley, founder of Dooley Direct LLC and one panelist at this upcoming 4-person panel.  

“What student doesn’t want to develop an app company or website that is the next big thing?” Dooley said. 

Where science-fiction is reality:

  • Brain Prosthetics: A Chip to Restore Your Memory
  • Monday, March 14 
  • 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
  • Access: Interactive Badge, Gold Badge, Platinum Badge

Forget studying for that organic chemistry midterm. In the future, students may be able to insert memories directly into their brains. 

Join Eliza Strickland, senior associate editor of IEEE Magazine, as she interviews Ted Berger, a professor of neuroscience and biomedical engineering at the University of Southern California, at this event.

“Understanding the human brain is humanity’s next great scientific mission,” Strickland said.

The prosthetic itself may not exist yet, but it is not too early to explore the benefits. Scientists are using these chips to treat Alzheimer’s and other disorders. They are also exploring ethics of memory chips.

“As a society, we’ll have to decide what kinds of neural safeguards we need to prevent such technologies from being misused,” Strickland said.

Redefining “real”:

  • Your Brain on Virtual Reality
  • Friday, March 18 
  • 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
  • Access: Music Badge, Film Badge, Interactive Badge, Gold Badge, Platinum Badge, Artist Wristband

With virtual reality, everything from traveling to gaming is easily available. However, there is more to VR than meets the eye.

At this panel, a group of researchers and VR designers will discuss the future of VR as a tool to rehabilitate Alzheimer’s patients. They will talk about the benefits of VR as well as the philosophical questions that surround it. Zoltan Nadasdy, research scientist at the NeuroTexas Institute of St. David’s Hospital and adjunct assistant professor at UT, explained how reality has many different facets.

“If you look at the history of art, we have so many different types of representations of the world,” Nadasdy said. “All those are legitimate representations, but they are capturing different aspects of reality.”

The panel will also investigate the future of VR.

“Computer technology is pushing the boundaries, but how far can it push the boundaries?” Nadasdy said. “Do we ever reach the state where we reach reality?”