Another year another South-by-Southwest, a dense gathering of techies, creatives, educators and businesses in the delightful city of Austin, Texas is almost over. After nearly a week of intense panels, networking, trend spotting, eating, learning, blogging and creating I am left with a sense of inspiration from the people, excitement at the opportunities and, well yes, relief that it is over.

I took part in PepsiCo’s Livescribe team, pulled together by Maya, documenting the conference with our Livescribe smartpens. It was a great opportunity to test this wonderful tool, which is definitely an incredible innovation on the hardware side of things, recording pen strokes as vector drawing, while simultaneously capturing the audio. I look forward to testing this further on my return.

The rise in visual communications was great to see. Imagethink was busy graphically recording featured speakers. Sunni Brown put together a sketchcamp that became a great gathering spot for visual practitioners. She joined Dan Roam, author of Backside of the Napkin, for a panel promoting “shut up and draw” clarifying the importance of visual thinking, and the lack of drawing skills required.

In action: Sunni Brown’s Doodle Revolution is brilliant and I support it wholeheartedly. The conversation that I kept hearing was how there are not enough visual practitioners, despite the density of visual thinkers. What if we could get the clarity provided from quality visual communications at high profile events like the upcoming US Presidential election? Perhaps it can change they way we teach the visual thinking out of students in the current education system.

It was not until the trade show that I saw something that felt like it was innovative and new. Quick disclaimer, I have not had a chance to test it myself, as I traveled light too (no laptop this trip, iPad only). From the demo, Qubeey was phenomenal. I loved it’s layering and the ability to interact with your streams without having the disrupt others action on your desktop. Thinking of how this can be used for training, this is very exciting. In terms of entertainment it is equally exciting. I look forward to seeing where they go with it.

Last year Apple brilliantly launched its iPad2 here with a pop-up shop, so we all could look, feel, use it and share our thoughts with the world. This year they missed by two days launching the New iPad, leaving many of us a long wait before it reaches our national shores. I was particularly excited to try it with its increased resolution in the screen, something I have been needing for my visual harvesting work. That said, it was profoundly clear that the iPad, and tablets in general, have been adopted by mainstream and techy alike. From cabbies and food trucks for navigation and payments to conference attendees traveling light, everyone had one. It’s mini-me, the iPhone, was standard gear for all, even the Microsoft employees I bumped into (“girls don’t dig the Windows phone”, he said).

So the show is over, time to pack up my stacks of cards, swag, and gear and head back home to test and explore some of the ideas and products and follow up with the contacts from the week. Thanks all for a great SxSW.

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social strategy, storytelling, SxSW
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