SXSW debuts Austin
The Future. South by Southwest (SXSW) is prepping an extended reality version of its festival that will allow attendees to experience all the trappings of the film/music/tech fest in a totally digital world. After Sundance succeeded with its own digital festival, the creation of a Sims-like world could become the norm for worldwide fests looking to attract more eyeballs than they have physical capacity for.
SXSW won’t be in-person for the second year in a row, but attendees will still be able to travel to Austin.
- SXSW created an extended reality (XR) version of downtown Austin, complete with landmarks such as the Empire Control Room and the Paramount Theatre.
- Extended reality is the mix between virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR).
- Exploring the virtual Austin as a digital avatar, fest attendees will be able to see live panels, go to meet-ups and special events, and watch both virtual cinema programming and 2-D video feeds of SXSW programming.
- The event will be hosted on VRChat and is available on PC, PCVR, and Oculus Quest headsets.
The festival created the virtual world with the help of social XR platform VRrOOM.
SXSW suffered a major blow last year when the event became the first major festival that was forced to cancel — a move that was particularly painful because SXSW didn’t have pandemic insurance (obviously) and didn’t have time to set up a strong digital alternative. Instead, some of the festival’s films played for a week on Amazon Prime… which unfortunately didn’t make much of a wave.
Now, with a lot more time to plan contingencies, the festival is following in the footsteps of the other biggest film festival in the U.S — the Sundance Film Festival. This year’s Sundance also went the XR route, and turned out to be such a hit that Sundance plans to continue its digital option for the foreseeable future.