SXSW 2016: Wearable tech and VR sessions we can't wait for

We're heading to Austin to listen to great minds talk wearable and VR innovations
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SXSW is nearly upon us. Opening on Friday 11 March, the interactive, film and music festival is sandwiched between an impressive line-up at Sundance and plenty of VR talks and demos at the Tribeca Film Festival in April. It's a promising sign that festivals are now taking VR every bit as seriously as big gaming events like E3.

But VR isn't all the Austin, Texas festival has up its sleeve. We are expecting plenty of talks on wrist wearables to be given as well. Whether it's health, accuracy, or privacy concerns, there's still a lot to discuss about the future of smartwatches and fitness trackers.

Must read: This is what your wearable terms and conditions say

We don't expect too many new product launches - that's what CES and Mobile World Congress are for. Instead, SXSW acts as a think tank of sorts where the best and brightest from various parts of the industry come to Austin to explore the innovations that VR, wearable tech and the smart home promise to bring next.

With the New York Times' discussion of VR storytelling, sessions on the future of virtual physicians along with the ongoing discussion of fashion and technology, there's far too many panels to squeeze onto one list. Hey, go to all of them if there were enough time.

Here are a few highlights of panels and events that we're looking forward to. Look out for our live coverage of SXSW Interactive over the weekend and into next week.

President Obama will kick off the show

SXSW 2016: Wearable tech and VR sessions we can't wait for

For the first time ever, a President and First Lady are joining in on the SXSW festivities.

President Obama will sit down with the editor-in-chief of The Texas Tribune for a conversation about increasing participation in the political process and fighting climate change along with various other topics.

First Lady Michelle Obama will give a keynote at the beginning of the Music portion of SXSW and will discuss the global Let Girls Learn initiative in support of girls' education.

It's unclear whether either Obama will discuss wearables but the President has been seen out on the town with a Fitbit strapped to his wrist - maybe he'll have something to add about fitness, health or our growing personal connection and dependence on technology in general.

Under Armour's CEO will talk health

SXSW 2016: Wearable tech and VR sessions we can't wait for

There likely won't be any new devices launched since the Under Armour Band and UA HealthBox have just gone out.

However, UA will be part of several panels at SXSW including 'How a Sports Giant Is Now Tackling Your Health' (Monday 14 March) where Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank will be speaking about the company's plans to transform health through tech.

'Wearables: The Future Isn't in Measuring the Past' (Monday 14 March) will also feature folks from Under Armour along with Garmin, Mutual Mobile and BSXathletics. The group will discuss why consumers are seemingly gobbling up wearables only to leave them behind as well as what companies can do to optimize fitness trackers and smartwatches for users.

Sony has mystery concepts to show off

After showing off the Xperia Ear, a Moto Hint style hearable, and the Sony Xperia Eye wearable camera at MWC earlier this year, it seems like Sony's still got something happening.

Sony previously released a video teasing a new wearable concept that currently goes by the codename "N" and it looks like some sort of headphone device.

The N concept is going to be the first project developed through what Sony is calling the Future Lab program where other sorts of gadgets will be exhibited at SXSW.

Sony will also be part of a talk on 'Five ways AR will change the world' (Wednesday 16 March), presumably focusing on its SmartEyeGlass Attach and other experiments. The panel will speak about how AR will transform the way we interact with museums, entertainment, travel, education and of course, gaming.

Samsung's Studio will be nuts

SXSW 2016: Wearable tech and VR sessions we can't wait for

It's not clear exactly what Samsung will announce to at SXSW but we will be heading to the Samsung Studio to check out vending machines with VR headsets inside, Samsung Pay demos and a look at the next instalment of the episodic thriller GONE for Gear VR, from Skybound and Wevr.

In terms of talks, Samsung along with a panel of physicians, designers, and technologists will also discuss IoT as a health hub and what it means for this combination of sensors, smart devices, AR/VR, and AI delivering seamless, proactive care.

With the Gear VR being one of the hottest VR mobile headsets out, we're also expecting to hear about some more new VR films, apps and experiences which would be a good fit for the Austin crowd.

Everything else we want to see

SXSW 2016: Wearable tech and VR sessions we can't wait for

As mentioned before, there's simply too much happening in Austin. We've condensed it even further but make no mistake, we'll probably be attending far more sessions than listed here.

Making the Internet of Things - How will makers shape the future of the Internet of Things especially while going up against the likes of Google and Nest, Apple's HomeKit and Samsung? (Saturday 12 March)

Wrist UX: What Works in Smartwatch Apps? - What's the best way to design a smartwatch app? (Sunday 13 March)

Smartwatch or Spyware? Considering Privacy and IoT - The issues raised around privacy issues and wearables. (Sunday 13 March)

Ultimate Empathy Machine: 360 Storytelling in VR - Virtual reality as a new medium of storytelling and how it can be used effectively. (Monday 14 March)

Connected Coaching: Active Learning for Athletes - Athletes and coaches talk about harnessing wearables to improve performance. (Sunday 13 March)

Check out the full SXSW 2016 schedule for yourself and let us know what else we should see. Wareable will be reporting from SXSW 2016 from Friday 11 to Tuesday 15 March.

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Lily is a writer and editor specializing in tech, video games, marketing, education, travel writing, and creative fiction. 

She has over 10 years of experience covering the technology beat.

Lily has a passion for VR and AR technologies and was associate wearables editor at TechRadar US, before joining Wareable as US editor in 2016.

Lily will graduate in 2023 with an MFA in Creative Writing.

In her spare time, Lily can be found knee-deep in zine collaborations, novel writing, playing Dungeons & Dragons or hiking and foraging for mushrooms.

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