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SXSW: Tech’s mindful mood

Calm technology was a key theme at last year’s SXSW, and that mindful mood has continued through to 2017. At the conference, the trade show and in some of this year’s activations, brands are responding to consumers’ growing desire to slow down, be present in the moment, and connect more meaningfully to the off-screen world.

Vancouver-based Moment Meditation blends tech with meditation to increase practitioners’ understanding of their physiological reactions to overstimulation. To kick off the process, each customer books in with a meditation expert, who connects them up to a variety of hardware – an EEG headset, heart rate monitor and breath tracker – to help them understand how their body reacts both to stress and to meditation. Using this biofeedback, they can then embark on a course of meditation that is personalised to their body, state of mind and specific needs.

New service StillGoing connects users to a live, on-demand meditation expert, who will then coach them in 15 or 30-minute sessions, either by audio or video chat through their smartphone. By folding in live guidance, the aim of the paid service is to help customers to meditate more effectively and develop their practice. StillGoing plans to launch on the App Store this August.

Some of the media activations this year also centre around slowing down and connecting to other people. To promote new documentary film Walk With Me – a Benedict Cumberbatch-narrated look at a Buddhist community – SXSW attendees are being invited to engage in walking meditation, progressing slowly around Austin in formation. This simple but powerful approach contrasts with the bells-and-whistles presences of other brands at the festival, and has accordingly drawn attention from conference-goers, who themselves generally scurry around the city in a frenzy.

The message? Our relationship with technology is in the midst of a rebalance: yes, we love our smartphones and social media feeds, and they are here to stay. But that offline moment is equally important, and the two don’t have to be in competition; they can co-exist, and complement each other. Even  – or especially – at one of the world’s biggest tech shows.

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