SXSW 2024: Key takeaways

SXSW 2024: Key takeaways


Following their trip to Austin, Texas, for this year’s SXSW festival, we caught up with April and Roger to hear all about what they got up to and their key takeaways.  

SXSW, the ultimate convergence of tech, music and film – all mashed together like a tex-mex burrito or, if you prefer, a smoky BBQ tray under the hot Texan sun. A kaleidoscope of inspiration and innovation where tech, design, business, wellbeing, art and culture converge throughout a dizzying week-long schedule of keynotes, panel discussions, workshops, mentor sessions, fitness-classes, run clubs, film premiers, parking-lot gigs, congress stands, print fairs and much, much more.

Here we’ll share some key themes and takeaways that made an impact on us throughout the week:

Transforming Healthcare delivery with AI 

The transformative potential of AI within healthcare systems is welcomed by all at SXSW, met with a strong sense of urgency as the means of breaking away from a fundamentally broken system.

Game changing examples of automation in the doctor’s office reveal leaps and bounds towards improved HCP-patient interaction. From streamlining clinical workflows and administrative tasks to enhancing diagnostic accuracy, HCPs are set to gain more quality time to focus on patient care. Leaders in healthcare and technology are embracing a shift to patient-centred medicine where technology empowers physicians to empathetically deliver both efficient and personalised care.

AI, human connection and creativity 

AI’s prominence at SXSW sparks introspection on its impact upon human connection and the future of creativity. Beyond the excitement of its unprecedented advancements, conversations turn to the aspects of a coexistence with AI that may keep some up at night, thankfully all encouragingly underpinned by prevailing ontological themes of preserving human interaction whilst augmenting human capabilities, including what it means to be creative (…I know). Considering AI with the same potential as a tool in your belt, or a collaborator, to offer new perspectives that may be previously unconsidered – such as spectating its bizarre visual hallucinations as a source of alternative direction or enhancement.

The Empowered Patient 

Digital technology is changing how we, as patients and consumers, connect with our personal health and, in turn, with our healthcare providers. We want more information. More support. More transparent and personalised care from healthcare professionals.  And yet, highly constrained healthcare systems mean we have less and less time with our care teams.

The rise of health management apps and wearable technologies, however, means that we now hold more of our personal health data in our pockets (or on our wrists, fingers or chest) than ever. Access to these highly personalised engagement platforms empower the patient, fostering a more collaborative approach to healthcare with more effective communication, shared decision-making and improved health outcomes.

Technological Innovations for Early Disease Prevention  

With disease prevalence increasing, and overburdened healthcare systems in crisis all over the globe, Dr. Vin Gupta posed the question: ‘How will we care for more people with less people?’

His answer: innovative technological solutions that will reinvent the care experience and support early disease detection.

‘The Heart Seat’, for example – a toilet seat laced with sensors that measure heart rate and blood oxygen levels. Fitted in the home, patients simply do their daily business, and the seat collates clinical data and sends it directly into your personal Electronic Medical Record (EMR) where physicians can access it in real-time to more quickly view insights and patterns.

Other technologies can measure health vitals without any physical contact with the patient at all. Consider facial recognition on your Smartphone to assess blood pressure and heart rate, or smart mirrors to track respiratory rates and body temperature.

While these solutions might feel far away, the exciting thing is that they are closer than you think. So, could your next toilet seat be a smart one?

Designing for Emerging Technologies

Fostering a dialogue of human-centred design is as prevalent as ever at SXSW, as design turns to new challenges of extended realities (XR) in spatial computing and what the multi-sensory interfaces required to support such experiences might actually look like. Questions such as: “What does it mean to feel embodied?” and “What does it mean to feel spatial?” are asked to understand what it takes to maintain a meaningful connection with ourselves, while engaged in such immersive experiences. Based on some demos we tried of the Apple Vision Pro in the tech lounge, we don’t think it’s there just yet… but plenty of scary stuff to follow.

Final reflections

A couple of weeks back on UK soil and the dust from our suitcases finally settled, our heads are still whirling with new ideas and post-conference reflections that we’re excited to delve deeper into with our colleagues and clients. The wealth of new insight, innovation and culture we experienced at SXSW is truly unmatched by any other conference and an opportunity that we’ll never forget.