What’s Coming to SXSW

South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive is growing and changing every year, earning its reputation as a stage for innovation, as well as the best in live music and film.

Last year, nearly 33,000 people attended SXSW in Austin. It featured 2,400 speakers and 1,100 conference sessions. When SXSW opens its doors this year on March 13th, it is expected to be even larger.

So what new things can attendees this year expect to find at one of the largest and most influential conferences in the digital and tech spaces? Plenty, according to the SXSW Interactive news stream and recent articles.

New venue. More space.

Workshops, meetups and longer sessions are moving to the brand new JW Marriott at Congress and Second Street, scheduled to open this month. The SXSW job market and SXSW Style will also relocate there. Here’s the list of 2015 workshops.

The mobile app will tell you who’s nearby and what’s happening near you.

SXSW GO will use Bluetooth-based iBeacon technology. The app will show you those around you and let you then message them, supercharging networking potential. It will also send push notifications about sessions and let you know other important things like what bands are playing at venues near you. Get more information and a quick guide on how to link your conference badge.

The start up village is set to double in size—and it will be global.

In 2014, representatives from start-ups in 82 countries attended the conference.

SXSW Interactive head Hugh Forrest expects that number to continue to grow this year. The Accelerator, where start-ups from across the world compete for top honors, will be housed within the start-up village at the Hilton. Here’s more on this year’s finalists and judges.

Healthcare and medtech will make their mark.

SXSW Health and Medtech gets its own exhibit space focused on innovations in health and medicine, with 60 companies set to exhibit at the JW Marriott. The decision dovetails with the planned opening of a new medical school in SXSW’s home city, Forrest told Silicon Hills News. “Our push into more health programming kind of parallels what is happening in Austin.”

There’s going to be a robot petting zoo.

The growing robotics industry will not only have a presence at sessions, but also a physical space in the JW Marriott. There, a firm using robots to help everywhere from the Boston Marathon to the U.S. border, will show off its wares.

SXSW Southbites will be back in a big way.

Forrest predicts a bigger focus on innovation in the food industry in general. For those marketers who aren’t necessarily interested in the food industry from that perspective, Southbites will celebrate its second year with food trucks, meetups and mixers at its home at the Driskill hotel.

This year’s keynotes speakers are Paola Antonelli of MoMA, Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al-Saud, Martine Rothblatt of United Therapeutics, Astro Teller of GoogleX, Lyft CEO Logan Green, and Megan Smith, Chief Technology Officer of the U.S.

The bottom line: Most marketers head to SXSW to sell, learn, network, or some combination thereof. For those who want to go, it’s time to start looking for the most interesting sessions among the hundreds on the schedule. But one thing is for sure–whether you’re in Austin or there in spirit (and following the social feeds from your office), you never quite know what SXSW will bring until it happens.

In the meantime, keep up with SXSW news or check out some recently announced workshops and a breakout of the agenda by topic area here.

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