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SXSW 2020 trends: From big tech to the explosion of cannabusiness

Artificial intelligence, sustainability, cannabis, gaming – just four examples of major areas impacting the fashion and retail industries today. As always, the key questions our clients want to know is in what way, and by when? Or in other words, at what point do I need to pay attention enough to jump into this space myself too?

Every August we take a pause and think about direction of travel for the industry. What within these trends really matter and how will they be shaped as we work towards 2020? 

We then like to reach out to our community about it to bring them to life at one of the industry’s leading festivals when it comes to the intersection of technology and culture today. 

Yes, we’re talking about SXSW.

Whether you’re a regular attendee, have the intention of being a first-timer, or just want to support great content from afar, this is your chance to bring to life the talks you’re interested in for next year. All you have to do is vote on the SXSW Panel Picker by August 23, 2019.

We’ve taken to heart those themes mentioned above, sourced some of the world’s foremost expert speakers on each subject, and we’re pitching for a total of five big sessions on stage. See them all below and click on each to place your votes.

Defending our humanity: The war on big tech
Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie

This revealing interview with Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, Christopher Wylie, will discuss how in a world overrun by disinformation, increasingly segregated by algorithms and steadily dulled through tech disruption, the very essence of our humanity is at risk. We’ll explore why it’s naive to rely on government or big tech to do the right thing, and how our culture can be defended as a result. Vote Here

Nike revealed: Sustainability through skateboarding
Stefan Janoski, Nike

This insightful panel featuring skateboarding and sustainability superstars including Stefan Janoski, Elissa Steamer and the brand’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Noel Kinder, will explore how Nike is opening up to reveal its changing labor practices and to launch a new documentary series shot in China. Vote Here

Desire-driven data as the future tastemaker
Stitch Fix

With data increasingly impacting everything consumers do, is machine learning becoming the tastemaker of the future? Learn from experts at L’Oréal, Stitch Fix and Hulu on how they’re using data to shape creativity and almost everything they do. Vote Here

Dope retail: The luxury opportunity for cannabis
Beboe

The global legal cannabis trade is expected to hit $77bn in value by 2022. Join us to hear about the exploding retail opportunity in this space from luxury cannabis brand, Beboe, and iconic New York retailer, Barneys. Vote Here

Shopper engagement? Gamification is the answer!
Harry Potter Wizards Unite

Gaming is having a moment – not just on our smartphones but in our stores. This session will see shopping center Simon Malls, which is tapping into Harry Potter with gaming company Niantic, and luxury brand Kenzo, which is driving exclusive product access through gaming, diving into how “play” is reshaping brand engagement. Vote Here

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Editor's pick Retail technology

Exploring Google’s experiential London pop-up: the Curiosity Rooms

Google's The Curiosity Rooms
Google’s Curiosity Rooms

Google has opened a month-long pop-up on London’s Regent Street, called the Curiosity Rooms, which offers a balance between connected moments and digital detoxing over a cup of tea.

The space is dedicated to encouraging visitor curiosity, a theme the tech company has embraced with the launch of its new Google Pixel 3 phone.

The result is a plethora of workshops, talks and experiences that have welcomed crowds of people since it opened last week, with most of the events planned sold out for the month.

The biggest lines when I visited focused around the “All-In Auto Wash” room – where groups can take selfies with the new Pixel phone, framed by pink carwash wipers – and the invite-only activation in the basement with pop band, Little Mix.

In between the mania, however, is a little haven of quiet in the form of The Pixedilly Café, a pink and blue 60s designed space. Here, guests are invited to experience one of the new features of the Pixel 3 phone, which invites a more mindful approach to digital communications.

The simple idea is that when you turn the phone over, all notifications, messages, calls and any other digital noise is turned off. Only when you are ready to get back to the real world, can you see all missed communications, simply by turning it back over.

To celebrate this sense of digital freedom, Google wants you to relax and enjoy in the most English-way possible – with a cup of tea. You don’t just get any old tea selection though, but instead the perfect one for you, based on a tasting menu that asks you four questions, all connected to how you would spend your perfect (digital) day-off.

The tongue-in-cheek asks include what type of weather you are, “warm and sunny” or “dark-and-stormy”, in order to concoct your custom brew. I ended up with the “Perfect Wind Down Cuppa”, a hot and spicy fruit tea mix.

Google's Curiosity Rooms
Google’s Curiosity Rooms

The pop-up space is otherwise spread over three floors in total with a multitude of further areas dedicated to different experiences.

There’s also the Google Maker’s Studio, which sees space rented by local London vendors, including flower-delivery company called Patch, and a small designer hosting workshops every week to teach children how to make clothes. There‘s also another space for creative talks, a coffee bar and a children’s play area with a giant “Not Pink” slide that allows those of all ages to travel down to the ground-floor again.

Meanwhile, the changing roster of events, with different talks, workshops and live podcast recordings, all tie in with the themes of health, mindfulness and millennial mind-sets.

A notable kick-off to the store space saw writer and activist Scarlett Curtis recording a live version of her Feminists Don’t Wear Pink podcast. Visitors have also been privy to a one-of-a-kind dining experience with food writer Grace Dent; a talk by entrepreneurial creative Sharmadean Reid, the co-founder of WAH nails and founder of beauty platform Beautystack, on how to use everyday technology to reach your goals; and further live podcast recordings with Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes and their weekly The High Low show.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about helping you build innovative integrations and experiences. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology, powered by a network of top startups. Get in touch to learn more.