Austin's South by Southwest, or SXSW for short, is more than just about music these days. It's billed as the nation's largest interdisciplinary media festival. The festival starts today and runs until March 16. Sure you can still find bands like Mac Miller, Broken Bells, and Lady Gaga, but nowadays you can also find out about everything from the hottest business start-ups, to great stand-up comedians. Even Christian Hip-Hop has found a platform for performances and showcases at SXSW, and this year patrons can catch Swoope, Da' T.R.U.T.H. and Christon Gray, to name a few of the performers. The festival has grown over the years from a smaller home grown festival back in 1987 when Austin, TX was barely on the map, to one of the premier events for anyone in the what's-happening-now crowd in many different industries. Last year's festival had over 30,000 attendees.
So what types of things are going on at this year's SXSW besides the music?
Former NSA Analyst Edward Snowden is going to speak live over the web in an exclusive interview from his new home in Russia. He is expected to discuss his experiences with the NSA, US Policy,surveillance and online privacy. Also talks by award winning actors and directors like Tilda Swinton and John Favreau are taking place at SXSW 2014, plus film openings, various panels and speakers and many other events.
Even IBM is getting in on the festivities by sending its Jeopardy champion computer Watson to work a food truck at the festival, according to a YouTube release put out by the company called "Computational Creativity."
IBM computer scientist and Chefs from the Institute of Culinary Education working with the team explain how the computer can do a great job mixing ingredients to make for unexpected, yet tasty delights.
"Humans have trouble remembering or thinking about large data sets or large number of possibilities," said Lav Varshney, an IBM researcher. "Most professional chefs are good at reasoning about pairs of ingredients. Some of the best chefs can reason about three ingredients. But pretty much no human can reason about four ingredients."
All involved report nothing but great taste from the computer's various concoctions so far.
Apparently Watson is on the streets of Austin with a full compliment of ICE chefs ready to add to the flavor of the whole SXSW experience. The truck debuted in Las Vegas last week and is slated to appear at South By Southwest this week.
Even If, like Snowden, you can't make it to Austin this year, you can still check out the iTunes Festival as it will be streamed for free to iTunes accounts.
Of course that will account for most the festival, but you will still miss out on the Watson-inspired pickled-tofu corn dogs that will most definitely, unexpectedly, be so very delicious.