Everywhere you walk in downtown Austin, Texas, new names compete for the attention of the tens of thousands wandering the SXSW Interactive festival. Which of this year's emerging ideas and brands — MakerBot, Leap Motion, Geomagic — will break into mainstream consciousness? Here's a quick rundown of the conversation topics in coffee lines, and some notes on appearances and panels that caught our attention:

Beyond The Keyboard And Mouse

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

SXSW Gaming Expo kicked off today, with thousands of people filling the Palmer Events Center. From computer tech to board games, the expo has companies from all over country unveiling their new demos.

"The Gaming Expo is a great opportunity for people who had been reading about games or had seen them online, to actually come in and try them out," says Nintendo of America's Kit Ellis. Nintendo is premiering more than 10 video games.


Scott Stullen and Katie Hill, co-curators of the now legendary Internet Cat Video Festival of 2012 spoke to a room full of cat lovers at SXSW Interactive. Their session featured…adorable cat videos! The questions the project raised were inevitable: Why cats? and Is this art?

What made the event significant was not only that it was the first, but also that the event took place at the highly renowned Walker Art Center. The cat video festival was a new translation of the center’s formal experimental program. This particular experiment was a runaway success.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The 20th year of South by Southwest Film kicked off Friday night with "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone"

It was the world premiere of Don Scardino's movie, starring Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi and Jim Carrey in a tale about a world-famous duo of magicians in Las Vegas. The event also brought to Austin some well-known Hollywood actors and filled the Paramount with laughter.

Remember some of those catchy old commercial jingles: "plop, plop fizz, fizz".... or "you deserve a break today?' Well, a fragmented mass media audience and ever-evolving technologies may be making those a thing of the past.

Bob Garfield is an advertising critic, author, consultant, and co-host of NPR's "On the Media" (quick plug: you can hear it Sunday mornings at 9:00 on KUT 90.5). He says companies have to trade in the old rules of reaching the mass market with the a new set of rules that mimic the way people treat each other.

Parking woes, scammers, thievery and lost friends are all issues that can ruin a South by Southwest experience. The Austin Police Department, AAA Texas and Better Business Bureau of Central Texas are all offering tips on how to best avoid those pitfalls.

APD Commander Bill Manno says anytime there is a big event, parking can be a challenge. He said parking close to the festival has been labeled "event-parking" only—violators will be towed. He also said the Guadalupe neighborhood, which is the area between I-35 and the State Cemetery, will be closed to public parking this year.

NASA/MSFC/David Higginbotham/Emmett Given

Last year, South by Southwest had approximately 60,000 registrants. And close to half of them – nearly 25,000 – came for SXSW Interactive.

In 2013, SXSW Interactive is still growing – but by five to seven percent, instead of the 15-20 percent leaps seen over the last few years. “That’s probably a good thing,” says SXSW Interactive Director Hugh Forrest. He says continued but manageable growth means “a little more bandwidth to manage some of the rough edges of the event and hopefully improve the usability.” Or in the words of CNN: “SXSW may have peaked –and that's not a bad thing.”

courtesy NASA

First it was a music festival, then a film festival, then an interactive festival. Since then, South by Southwest has added education, the environment and venture capital to its repertoire. Could SXSW Space be far off?

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Microsoft founder Bill Gates says tougher standards and more testing have not helped American students get a better ranking against their peers in other developed countries.

South by Southwest edu wrapped up today with a keynote from Bill Gates. In his remarks, Gates encouraged the hundreds in attendance to invest in technology as way to improve education in the U.S., while retaining educational fundamentals.

Every year, the South By Southwest music, film and interactive festival gets larger, and navigating the blur of panels, parties and shows gets more daunting. The girth of it all is enough to keep many SXSW old-timers away from Austin this year.

Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Good morning. The National Weather Service says Austin’s in for a partly cloudy and cool day, with a high in the mid-60s.

Lead Story: This year’s array of South by Southwest conferences started this week with South by Southwest EDU, focusing on education.

One speaker yesterday was AISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen, who looked ahead at the changing challenges for public education.

Mobile Loaves and Fishes

Homeless people will be selling coffee, snacks and ice cream from push carts during South by Southwest. The local non-profit Mobile Loaves and Fishes is running the program. They call it Street Treats. (Not to be confused with this food truck that bears the same name.)

“We wanted to create a dignifying opportunity for these men and women to earn an income. We’re able to put them in a uniform, and they look really clean and presentable to the community," said Stephanie Asmus with Mobile Loaves and Fishes. She says this is the second year of their program.

Cell phone companies are getting ready for South by Southwest, when thousands of smartphone-toting attendees will be putting mobile bandwidth limits to the test.

“What we’re doing is we’re adding capacity to all of the existing sites that cover that area,” says Bill Brickle, Verizon’s director of system performance for Central Texas. “We’re also adding coverage by adding portable cell sites, or ‘cells on wheels’ as we call them.”

Audio for The Austin 100 is no longer available.

It says a lot about SXSW's size and scope that this "sampler" of the annual music festival spans six and a half hours, but here we are: 100 songs by 100 artists worth discovering at this year's big event.

KUT News

Good morning. The National Weather Service says a Red Flag Warning in effect until 8 p.m. today. The windy, dry conditions mean a high risk of fire in Central Texas. The Travis County Fire Marshal is asking everyone to be careful and to avoid doing things like mowing, welding and outdoor cooking.

Lead Story: The nation is three days into those across-the-board federal budget cuts called the sequester.  And the Secretary of Homeland Security says some of the nation’s bigger airports are already seeing security-line waits up 150 to 200 percent because of immediate cuts to overtime pay.

[This story originally ran on Feb. 22, 2013, but still applies today.]

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the Valentine's Day cards that got returned with no forwarding address is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, how music fans could and should approach SXSW, the gigantic music festival held every March in Austin, Texas.


In little over a months the city will swell as South by Southwest takes over downtown Austin. And the over 200,000 expected festival attendees have no shortage of events to attend: Today, SXSW released its film lineup, totaling 109 features.  

Film Conference and Festival Producer Janet Pierson writes that this year’s lineup “embraces love and the need/search/desire for connection.”

Good Friday morning to you. Austin’s in for a warm and breezy weekend until a cold front blows in Sunday night, according to the National Weather Service. Here’s some stories KUT News has been working on.

“Though it’s only November, the springtime music conference that takes over Austin each year, South by Southwest, is already beginning to take shape.  Thursday, organizers released the initial lineup.”

“Austin-based singer-songwriter Darden Smith is working to do something about the thousands of service members affected by PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). …

Smith is the founder of a new program to help promote soldiers’ healing through music. Texas Music Matters’ David Brown reports from a camp outside Fort Hood, site of a recent Songwriting with Soldiers retreat.”

Good Morning. Once the clouds dissipate, Austin can expect warm weather with a high of 86, according to the National Weather Service. Here are some stories KUT News has been working on:

Three Austinites are suing the City of Austin, Travis County, the Austin Independent School District and Central Health for allowing tax breaks on what the plaintiffs refer to as “allegedly” historic properties.

AMLI Residential, builder of several high profile apartment communities in Austin, has announced it is going to build a mid-rise project in Mueller town center.

The popular Austin film, music and interactive festival is rolling out the SXSW V2 festival in Las Vegas in August. Rather than merely being an extension of the music and film events that take place in Austin, SXSW V2 is geared toward tech startups.

Texas Republicans have made limiting trimming the state budget an integral part of their mission over the last decade, but many worry the state has simply shifted the burden to local governments.