The 2018 SXSW Conference and Festivals brought us another year of innovation, entertainment, and inspiration. We’ve summarized the highlights in this round-up.

Cover image by Roschetzky Photography.

The 2018 SXSW Conference and Festivals have come and gone, and, once again, they didn’t disappoint. Spanning 10 days and featuring nearly 300,000 participants across all conferences and festivals, the conference turned Austin, Texas into a packed (but welcoming) town.

Here are some of this year’s highlights, featuring some of the coolest events, most innovative ideas, and most enlightening interviews.

Big Names, Big Ideas

SXSW Conference 2018: Highlights from Austin — Attendees
Image via SXSW Conference.

To start, the SXSW Conference brought out some major stars in the worlds of tech, art, film, and convergence. Featured speakers included the California Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senator Bernie Sanders, Kenya Barris (of the TV show Black-ish), New York Times correspondent Rukmini Callimachi and founding Wu-Tang Clan member U-GOD.

Keynote speakers included Melinda Gates, filmmaker Barry Jenkins, author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates and virtual and augmented reality pioneer Nonny de la Peña. You can read more about all the keynotes, featured speakers, and discussions here.

Tech Conferences

SXSW Conference 2018: Highlights from Austin — Tech Conferences
Image via SXSW Conference.

The SXSW Conference continues to be a hub for all things tech. Since launching Twitter a decade ago, conference tracks have developed for everything from coding and programming to brands and marketing to style and design. We chatted with Shutterstock’s own Director of Engineering, Rashi Khurana, about her discussion on code migration and her tips for “changing the engine while still flying the plane.”

Up-and-Coming Startups

SXSW Conference 2018: Highlights from Austin — Up-and-Coming Startups
Image via SXSW Conference.

The 2018 SXSW Accelerator Pitch Event drew major crowds to the conference floor with over 400 total participants, 800+ financing events, and an estimated $4.6 billion in funds and acquisitions. New York-based Nanowear took home the top prize for Best in Show for their connected-self technology platform that helps with diagnostics and disease management through cloth-based nanosensors and analytics.

We caught up with another up-and-coming startup called Hyku, who is leading the conversation on the future of interactive video technology, which you can read up on here.

Virtual Reality

SXSW Conference 2018: Highlights from Austin — Virtual RealityImage via SXSW Conference.

One area that generated buzz this year, similar to years past, was the virtual and augmented reality presentations, panels, and sessions. Discussions ranged from story crafting, illusion design, mixed-reality demonstrations, and exploring virtual worlds. For some more in-depth coverage, here’s a great interview with virtual pioneer Jessica Brillhart about her groundbreaking virtual cinema project Beethoven’s Fifth.

Art Program

SXSW Conference 2018: Highlights from Austin — Art Program
Image via SXSW Conference.

2018 also saw an expanded Art Program lineup following the success of its inaugural launch in 2017. The program, which hosted walk-in exhibits along with numerous speakers, sessions, and events across the entirety of SXSW’s conferences, featured conceptual and new media art from some renowned names like Meow Wolf, Artprize, and the Contemporary Austin.

Here’s a featured interview with documentary artist Hervé Cohen about his groundbreaking installation Life Underground.

Film Festival

SXSW Conference 2018: Highlights from Austin — Film Festival
Image via SXSW Conference.

While it started as a music festival over 25 years ago, SXSW has undeniably grown in too many ways to count. One major brand it has developed is its SXSW Film Festival, which has become a world-class event with major blockbuster premieres, star appearances, and a heavily covered festival that has launched stars like Lena Dunham, Mark and Jay Duplass, and Richard Linklater.

For full coverage of this year’s SXSW Film Festival, check out this wrap-up from PremiumBeat.

Everything Else

SXSW Conference 2018: Highlights from Austin — Everything Else
Image by Alfie Photography.

It seems silly to end where SXSW all began, but as always, music was the underlying force beneath the entire SXSW landscape. Impromptu street performances and pop-up brand activation shows filled the air of downtown Austin with flashy tents and loud music. The SXSW Conference also saw some great shows and exhibits in the up-and-coming festivals for Comedy and Gaming, along with its usual mix of taco-mixers, networking events, and brand parties to boot.

Be sure to read up on the Grulke Prize-winning music acts, the SXSW Interactive Innovation Awards recipients, the highlights from the SXSW exhibition floor, and catch up on all the keynotes, speeches, and demonstrations on the SXSW Youtube channel here.