The 2016 South by Southwest culture festival opens next week in Austin, Texas, screening 150 feature films and 106 shorts, showcasing 2,266 musical acts, and offering about 2,000 conference sessions, plus a number of trade shows and 126 official SXSW parties. While the sheer volume of choices is overwhelming, organizers hope a new feature on the official conference app, SXSW GO, can bring the mega-event down to size by customizing experiences for the 80,000-plus participants.

For the sixth year, Vancouver-based Eventbase is behind the SXSW app and this year the mobile tech company has added a “recommendation engine.” The new feature generates suggestions for sessions, films, musical acts, or other event content by looking at an attendee’s profile and favorites in the in-app schedule. The tool’s algorithm compares the user’s interests with that of like-minded people in their network, looking for sessions that appear to be a fit but that aren’t on the attendee's schedule. The app will also deliver recommendations with push notifications based on gaps in the attendee's schedule as well as their physical location at the conference. 

“SXSW is a vast, intense experience, and this year we’ve focused even more deeply on using technology to make it truly personal,” said Jeff Sinclair, co-founder and CEO of Eventbase. “With recommendations uniquely tailored to each person, we hope that attendees can spend less time planning and instead make the most of their time in Austin.”

In 2015, when the SXSW GO app saw 78,000 active users, Eventbase introduced two networking technologies: Around Me, which uses iBeacon technology to let attendees know who is nearby (there were more than 1,000 iBeacons deployed in more than 250 conference venues), and Attendee Match, which connects attendees with similar interests.