Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Sxsw Festival Mixes Gadgets, Political Activism

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Sxsw Festival Mixes Gadgets, Political Activism

Article excerpt

AUSTIN, Texas --

Hot tech topics at the SXSW Interactive Festival last week included sites, apps and gadgets that promote political activism and government efficiency. And, of course, some gadgets were just plain fun. Here are five SXSW encounters, followed by those voted tops in interactive technology:

* MAYA Design of our own South Side was a big presence at the Pepsico Lounge in a sizable corner of the Austin Convention Center, which included Maya's Zeitgeist Booth. On the outside, the walls of the booth seemed to liquefy with Pepsi products. Inside, a rotary phone rang and there were instructions to dial. When you did, the booth's interior walls become interactive, with features such as picking the traits of your ideal employee.

MAYA CEO Mickey McManus was a constant presence in that corner of the SXSW Interactive Festival, where recruits were given Livescribe smart pens to use with his company's "What If" books.

Smart pens allow for the transmission of handwritten text from paper to digital media. The custom journals included maps of locations, "buttons" for site check-ins, or, as MAYA's Mike Roy put it in a call for users, space to "tell us how sore your feet are or how much sleep you've had."

Users' doodles, which were translated to animations, were picked to be featured on monitors in the convention center and other sites.

* Former Vice President Al Gore and Sean "Napster" Parker, whose arrival was heralded via Twitter, created a buzz over their call for taking back our political system from big-money groups. Mr. Gore called for an online "Occupy Democracy" movement, and Mr. Parker countered with a call for a "Nerd Spring," fostered by his site Causes.com, which is "devoted to bringing the best of engineering and product design to the world of activism and philanthropy. …

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