SXSW 2012 Weekend Highlights: Instagram on Android, Angry Birds in Space, Live Hacks and More

The party is still going strong in Austin, Texas with SXSW Interactive 2012. Some 30,000 attendees descend upon the capital city to witness the latest innovation within music, film and technology platforms. To capture the hottest item over the next few days, senior editors Alex Williams will ask a “Question of the Day” to participants, while Kristen Nicole will be hunting down the “Big Data” stories. And as expected, SXSW’s hotbed for startups has generated plenty of buzz around mobile apps, many of which we’re watching as useful for attendees or standouts in ambient social discovery.

Thousands of entrepreneurs, investors and techies are taking the conference by storm. Here are some highlights at SXSW Interactive 2012 for the first three days.

Instagram on Android

The iPhone app that turned a user to an instant cinematic photographer demos its long-awaited upcoming Android app at SXSW.  After gaining more than 27 million users and earning honors as the iPhone app of the year in 2011, Instagram is invading Android-powered smartphones very soon.

CEO Kevin Systrom teases Android-users who are anticipating the launch of the photo-sharing app in the platform: “We’ve been able to put together one of the most incredible Android apps you will ever see. It’s extremely fast.”

He added, “It’s a very exciting time for us. We’re growing faster more quickly than anyone right now.

Instagram is also looking at a potential app tailored for Windows Phone in the future. A smart move for a company rumored to be getting a $40 million round of funding at a $500 million valuation.

Google

One of the first highlights of SXSW was Google’s exec addressing growing public concerns on the refurbished privacy policy of the search engine giant. The man behind Google+,Vic Gundotra talked about keeping users’ trust:

“If we do things that are evil, with one click you can leave Google. If we break the users’ trust, we can lose to competitors very quickly.” He added, “There are some things Google could have done better,” he said. “If we could build a common notion of your identity and your relationships, we thought, we could make Google better.”

Gundotra also denied speculations that Google+ is dead. He reiterated the most content in the social network is shared privately and its daily users are at 50 million, while monthly users is estimated to be at 100 million.

SXSW: A Hacker’s Sanctuary

While giving keynotes on security, Hak5 founder Darren Kitchen shows how SXSW is a haven for hackers by hacking audience’s laptops during the demo and smartphones of participants in a coffe shop. His talk, entitled Securing Your Information in a Target Rich Environment, was right on target in reminding users that the more social-savvy they are, the more they need to protect their digital property. The minimal sense of security as users connect to public Wi-Fi networks will make them easy prey for cyber culprits.

Kitchen pointed out the flaw of the open Wi-Fi system:

“The security is in the way vendors implement it and all they care about is network name. The solution would be requiring a challenge and response protocol for authentication and encryption. But the mobile device makers haven’t implemented that, probably because users would need to make a few more clicks to get on the network.”

Twitter

The social data from Twitter is being transformed to a whimsical audio and visual experience at SXSW. Together with Samsung Mobile, Instagram, Rdio and Mozilla, a high-concept social media art makes it easier for people to decipher the happenings behind information from the microblogging site.

SXSW is arguably the most memorable place for Twitter.  In 2007, the conference paved the way for the launch of their platform that went from zero to hero as the largest social media hub in the world.  In this year’s episode, Twitter showcases real-time coverage of the event through freecreditscore.com.

Twitter was also used as a podium to recognize social good by means of the Goody Awards at SXSW. The launch was made to improve social media experience of users—they can now tweet 3 Goody Awards (Good Deed Goody, Hero Goody and Team Goody) to publicly salute a person who gave a sound advice, cares for the environment and more. To kick off things, Goody Awards announced the first set of awardees:

Good Deed Goody: Actress Shailene Woodley @Shailene_Wood for raising global issues of Food, Genocide and Philanthropic work when she won the Best Supporting Female for her role in The Descendants at the Independent Spirit Awards.

Hero Goody: Designer Oliver Tolentino @DesignerOliverT for his Eco-Coutour Collection displayed on the green carpet at Global Green’s USA Pre-Oscar Party.

Team Goody: Red Eye @RedEyeInc for providing a common ground for people to develop their talents and help those in need through networking and giving back to charities such as LA’s Children’s Hospital and the NYC Dream Center.

While they are not directly partaking in the SXSW debate of whether or not social networks should require the usage of real names, Twitter has their set of guidelines to confirm identity through a verification process.  Celebrities and famous people who have passed this procedure will be given the verified sign.

SoJoLife

At the onset of SXSW, Blendology Limited launched SoJoLife, a platform built to capitalize on social data and interactions to measure success of advertising campaigns. This solution consists of two features: the “tap technology” and interactive media hubs. The “Tap to Connect” enables real-life connections and links these to your existing social networks.

Bill Munday, CEO of Blendology, explains how this solution can make a big impact in today’s marketing ecosystem: “Businesses spend more than $520 billion on branding and advertising each year, with $7 billion spent on promotional campaigns that provide little or no way to measure their effectiveness. SoJoLife enables brand managers to engage with customers on multiple levels for a single promotional spend.”

Events and brand managers will be given the chance to engage closely with their customers before, after and during the event through SoJoLife. Furthermore, they will be provided with measurable results and improved customer value.

Dropbox

Still battling controversies on whether it is ambitious in its goals for a $40 billion valuation, DropBox CEO Drew Houston shares what the business is like for the organization:

“Every couple of days, a billion files are stored on Dropbox. Wedding photos, tax returns, people’s most important stuff. Users get only 2GB of space for free — a relatively parsimonious amount that competitors beat by factors of up to 25X — but Houston argues that the company’s paying customers are plunking down money because Dropbox offers peace of mind.”

He adds some humor as he tries to interpret what people really want, saying, “What people love is not free space,” he said. “It’s that they could literally take their MacBook Air and throw it in the river and not lose anything…That’s been the promise for years. We brought it across the finish line.”

Presently, DropBox has more than 50 million users. Its promise was recognized by the keen eyes of the late-great Steve Jobs, who once offered to buy the company for $100 million. But the man behind Apple’s pinnacle success stressed that DropBox is only a feature and not a service—an issue that is still a subject of heated debates.

Angry Birds Space

Embarking on their biggest adventure are the Angry Birds. Rovio, the maker of this phenom game, debuts Angry Birds in Space at SWSW. During the event, participants were able to get the first glimpse of the never-before-seen characters and locations, thanks to their partnership with Samsung. The launch also signalled the availability of the game to iOS, Android, PC, and Mac on March 22nd. The Galaxy Note will feature exclusive bonus rounds, and a free Danger Zone add-on.