- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 11, 2014

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Bitcoin, 3-D printed candy and George Takei, the Star Trek-actor-turned-Facebook-phenomenon, are among the attractions this week at the South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, where the geek set is slowly filing out to make room for hordes of musicians descending on the city.

Known as the launching pad of Twitter and home to Foursquare’s coming out party just a few years ago, the annual tech confab also attracts big tech companies that are eager to test out new ideas or simply show that they’re still “with it.”

Here’s a sampling of what you missed - other than waiting in long lines - if you didn’t make it to Austin this year:


The line to get in to Microsoft Corp.’s 9 p.m. launch party for the eagerly anticipated video game “Titanfall” started forming around 10 a.m. on Monday. By 8 p.m. that night it was around the block and not moving much.

Joseph Cook, 12, rode down with his uncle from nearby Round Rock to get his hands on the game, which went on sale at midnight. They’d been waiting since 6:40 p.m.

“I have been looking at this game since it was launched,” Cook says.

So what’s so great about it?

“Parkour, titans and guns,” he says, summing it up. “Titanfall,” from the creators of “Call of Duty,” is a shooter game that can only be played with others online - there’s no single-player mode. You play either as a pilot or a titan, wearing a giant, Transformers-like robot suit.

Microsoft has a lot riding on “Titanfall.” The company’s Xbox One console is trailing Sony’s PlayStation 4 in sales. Yusuf Mehdi, chief marketing and strategy officer at Microsoft, though, notes that it’s early in the game.

“We are maybe 10 million units in,” he says, citing sales figures for the newest generation of game consoles from Sony and Microsoft. Analysts expect some 350 million consoles to be sold in the coming years before the next console cycle comes around.

So why South By Southwest and not, say, a video game conference for the launch party?

“Just knowing there are a lot of fans here, and (that) there’s a crossover of social, pop culture, gaming and technology here. That just makes it a really fun place to do it,” says David Dennis, a spokesman for Microsoft.


Some 150 sweaty people jammed in a plastic igloo Monday night, wearing special bracelets that measured their movement, body temperature and excitement level. A-Trak, the popular Canadian DJ known for his work with Kanye West and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, took stage just as the crowd’s excitement level - as measured by their wristbands - reached its peak. Lightwave, the startup behind the technology, sees broad potential for the bands, not just at concerts but also at movies, sporting events or political rallies. The DJ had an iPad in front of him that showed the crowd’s real-time excitement level during the event. He could adjust the music to guide the dancers’ mood. Cocktail waitresses served drinks with glowing plastic ice cubes when the excitement level reached a crescendo, and bottles of cold water when body temperatures started rising from all the dancing.

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