Experience Radar: The Key Trends From SXSW 2023, And Netflix Ups Its Game

At The WXO, we want to connect the dots across the Experience Economy and across the globe – so each week, we’ll be bringing you our round-up of the experiential stories that we think reveal something interesting, relevant or transferrable about the Experience Economy.

Welcome to our latest Experience Radar round up, where we’re having our neural pathways opened up by a scented candle, ruminating over the latest AI trends at SXSW in Austin, and co-creating our own utopian garden in Tacoma.

1. Learn How To Be Happy In Finland

Headline and above image: Meeting Room Standard by ROOM, US; Finding Your Inner Finn, Kuru Resort, Finland

When it comes to happiness, we could all learn a thing or two from the Finns. Their country may be icy for much of the year, but that doesn’t seem to deter them from being enviably cheery and appreciative of what they’ve got. As reported by Condé Nast Traveller, Finland has topped the United Nations 10 happiest countries in the world list for six consecutive years. If you’re keen to tap into some of that Nordic magic then you’re in luck as the country will be hosting a ‘Masterclass of Happiness’ for 10 cherry-picked visitors this June, which aims to teach tourists happiness Finnish style through getting closer to nature.

Taking place from 12-15 June, the ‘Finding Your Inner Finn’ programme will be held at the luxury Kuru Resort in Finland’s Lake District down south, where participants will have the chance to delve into the region’s jaw-dropping natural beauty and indulge in local food and music. The chosen ones will stay a private villa boasting its own sauna and spa surrounded by pine forests. Activities during the workshop include getting well acquainted with the Lake District, exploring the local pine forests and spending quality time outdoors – the ability to do so is something Finns put their above-average happiness levels down to.

2. Office Peacocking Is On The Rise

Meeting Room Pro by ROOM, US

We’re here for the elevated office experience at the WXO, and have been following the trend with interest, from Diageo’s wellness floor and Google’s new high tech HQ in King’s Cross to L’Oreal offering to do their staff’s dry cleaning. Going all out to try to lure staff back into the fold is being dubbed ‘office peacocking’, which is on the rise according to Work Life. Offices are being turned into more creative and inviting spaces that encourage blue-sky thinking, as firms go to ever-greater lengths to make their workspaces more homely.

As reported by the BBC, companies need to be intentional when it comes to the design of their workspace, making them both functional and inviting by offering staff perks like free food, beer on tap, charging points for electric cars, and even doggy day-care services. Brooklyn-based design firm ROOM is revolutionising the workplace with soundproof meeting pods and ‘Zoom rooms’ for the likes of Google and Lucasfilm. “Companies must rethink the physical workspace to inspire human interaction, ideas and innovation, which can be done through human-centric, purpose-built design that focuses on the individual over the corporation,” said ROOM’s CEO, Morten Meisner-Jensen.

3. The SXSW Trends You Need To Know About

Forager by Winslow Porter and Elie Zananiri, SXSW 2023, US

The SXSW festival returned to Austin in March, and with it came many big ideas to chew over. Offering attendees a taste of the future, the show explored the chilling concept of ‘post-human narratives’ via an XR experience set in a future world populated, rather terrifyingly, by human-machine hybrids. Another more uplifting vision of the future came via XR game Forager, which places people in the full lifecycle of a mushroom to encourage us to look beyond ourselves and appreciate a natural phenomenon that has lived through five mass extinctions.

As reported by Wunderman Thompson, ‘soft tech’ was another buzzword of the show, as tech companies try to incorporate all of the senses into functional experiences like phone calls. “It might be much more interesting to smell your friend when they call. That’s what we’re trying to do: involving the whole body to have a different relationship with technology,” Marcel van Brakel, lead designer at Polymorf, told WT. The goal is to make tech less hardware focused and more organic to soften its hard edges. AI and its role in driving a human knowledge revolution was front and centre at the show. Rather than stealing our jobs, AI agents will help to facilitate the future of work, becoming proxies on our behalf.

4. Can A Candle Open Your Neural Pathways?

Kin Euphorics collaboration with Boy Smells, US

We’ve followed the trend of scent marketing and functional fragrances with interest, so were curious to hear about a new range of scented candles that promise to open our neural pathways. The mood-boosting candles are the fruit of a collaboration between cult brand Boy Smells and Bella Hadid-backed functional drinks brand Kin Euphorics, whose libations aim to enhance your mood and support brain cognition via the use of adaptogens and nootropics. As reported by Nylon, the trio of candles use patented, brain-triggering scent techology to lift your mood by illuminating different neural pathways.

The Cosmic Collisions range includes the Restart candle, which stimulates the senses via citrus rind, mint, and fresh ginger, and the Drop Out candle, for connecting to your centre with camomile, lavender and sage. There’s also a Turn On candle, to “light your heart’s fire” through the power of carrot, citrus and vetiver. “The brain-triggered technology uses data fielded from conscious and unconscious responses to different scent notes and their effect on the brain,” BoySmells co-founder, Matthew Herman, told Nylon, adding, “These scents will help put your head in the right place for different desired states throughout your day.” The candles cost $52 a pop or $199 for the range and four Kin drinks.

5. Netflix To Up Its Game This Year

Monument Valley franchise, Ustwo

Netflix is backing gaming big time this year, having recently announced that it will add no less than 40 new games to its mobile platform this year. As reported by Tech Crunch, the streaming giant has a further 70 games in development with various partners and 16 more in house. Since launching its games division in 2021, Netflix has released 55 titles. Soon to drop will be Ustwo’s Monument Valley franchise, which will be the same as the currently available versions on Apple and Google. Netflix’s goal is to offer a diverse portfolio of games that cater to all of its subscribers, from diehard joystick junkies to gaming newbies.

Also set to launch on Netflix soon is Mighty Quest: Rogue Palace, which will hit the platform on 18 April. According to Tech Crunch, Netflix’s version of the Ubisoft game features an improved formula, deepened narrative and upgraded frantic action gameplay. The launch is the second of three exclusive games from Ubisoft to be released on Netflix following on from Valiant Hearts: Coming Home, which launched in January. Netflix has also teased that it’s working with Super Evil Megacorp, the developer behind Vainglory and Catalyst Black, on an exclusive game based on an upcoming Netflix release, so watch this space…

6. Explore The Science Of Flight In Sydney

The Mechanics of Spring by Unlabelled, Vivid Sydney, Australia

Light, music, food and ideas festival Vivid Sydney – the city’s annual celebration of creativity, innovation and technology – will play host to a thought-provoking art installation that explores the science of flight. Called The Mechanics of Spring, the piece is inspired by a mysterious aerodynamic phenomenon in nature employed by hummingbirds, bumblebees and helicopter seeds. Responsible for the hovering of hummingbirds, pollination of flowers and propagation of seeds, the installation offers an artistic interpretation of the complicated aerodynamic system keeping the birds and bees afloat.

Rather than flapping up and down, their wings twist and turn in the air, creating the illusion of levitating. NZ-based experience design studio Unlabelled brought the project to life, using custom-designed motors and release systems to recreate this natural marvel in the form of a forest of large-scale, ultra-lightweight ‘wings’ and ‘leaves’ that twist and turn down a suspended wire, floating up and down in a hypnotic pattern to a soundtrack that keeps time with the movements. Attendees to Vivid Sydney – which takes place from 26 May to 17 June – are invited to marvel at nature at its most magical.

7. Co-Create Your Own Utopian Garden

Utopian Garden at Tacoma Armory, by flora&faunavisions, Washington, US

If you’re green-fingered and in the Tacoma area, be sure to swing by Utopian Garden, a 45-minute ‘edutainment’ experience for all ages that takes visitors on an immersive journey where they’re given the chance to co-create their own garden state with other attendees using state-of-the-art projection mapping and interactive, sensor-based tech. Keen to stimulate all of the senses, the experience puts visitors at the interaction of art, science and nature, taking inspiration from the likes of Ada Lovelace, Carl Linnaeus and Claude Monet and with a bespoke score and responsive sound design.

Taking place at the Tacoma Armory, Utopian Garden, which follows a guided three-part storyline with a big reveal at the end, is the brainchild of Berlin design studio flora&faunavisions, creators of ‘Da Vinci: the Immersive Experience’. “Utopian Garden invites visitors to embrace the hopeful, playful aspects of our connection with nature,” the firm’s co-founder, Leigh Sachwitz, said. “We want to highlight imagination and inspiration, giving participants the opportunity to reconnect with the natural world and each other by exploring the concept of utopia.” Following its Tacoma run the show will tour the globe.