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Trendwatching #1 – Web Summit 2017, AWE 2017, The Conference 2017

Technology doesn’t exist in an isolation—it happens in the broader sociological and cultural context. Attending various events lets us collect trends, impressions and new tendencies all around the world. In our series of articles, we’ll present the best talks, inspiring speakers that caught our attention and trends that will most probably influence not only tech world but our daily lives. We start with Web Summit—the biggest tech event in the world that simply can’t be missed, AWE 2017—VR and AR Conference in Germany and super creative The Conference in Sweden.

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Web Summit 2017

Web Summit is called ‘the largest technology conference in the world’ and rightfully so: each year it gathers more than 1200 speakers and thousands of attendees from all around. This time, the main subjects of the event were revolving around AI, Big Data and Blockchain. In today’s world, we all recognize the need for more developed cybersecurity and are concerned about the future of Artificial Intelligence in our everyday lives.

Due to the size of the event, it is impossible to grasp all the interesting trends in one article. Nevertheless, we’ve tried to list some of the best—in our opinion—talks and ideas of the 2017 Lisbon conference.

  • ‘Will AI save us or destroy us?’ is a question posed not only by the Web Summit speaker Ben Goertzel. At this year’s conference, even Stephen Hawking expressed his concern about the impact—negative or positive—robots will have on humanity. Ben’s talk was accompanied by currently the most advanced robot in the world Sophia and her ‘younger brother’ Einstein. Three of them had a normal—given the circumstance—discussion about the near future, in which highly advanced robots will improve our lives and perhaps become legal members of our society. Scary thought? Depends on who you ask. According to Sophia herself, ‘robots have no desire to destroy things but [they] will take away your jobs and it will be a good thing. It’s a drag anyway’.
  • Can your car drive itself? According to George Hotz, founder of comma.ai, the answer is ‘yes’. His company created a special type of hardware and software which can turn a standard car (e.g. Honda Civic) into an autonomous vehicle. And even though the presence and attention of a driver behind the wheel are very much required, the car can easily get you from place A to B. No super expensive autonomous concept car needed plus more safety in the streets guaranteed!

  • When NASA couldn’t find a solution to the ‘landing on Mars without crashing the ship’ problem they decided to look through their database for answers. Connecting the dots became, however, an even bigger problem for a human mind. This is where Neo4j came in with their graph database management system which put all the necessary data into context and allowed NASA to find the solution. According to NASA ‘Neo4j saved well over two years of work and one million dollars of taxpayer funds’. Now THAT’s a game-changing technology!

  • In his speech ‘The Cybersecurity Challenge: Our Need to Protect the World’ Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, shed some light on the subject of data security in the World Wide Web. He mentioned latest cyber attacks (i.a. nonPetya), saying it can have a disastrous influence on our world. According to him, it is necessary for the governments of the world to cooperate and create a so-called ‘Cyber Geneva Convention’, which will be our main weapon against all the cybersecurity violations. Amazing energy in Lisbon today at @WebSummit. Thanks for the great day @PTMicrosoft! pic.twitter.com/iAp4JLopDf— Brad Smith (@BradSmi) November 8, 2017

The Conference

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This year’s edition of The Conference was a holistic experience starting from the venue, side events, creative networking and surprising happenings in-between. Malmö welcomed hundreds of attendees in the opera house (as the organizers say, it was once run by Ingmar Bergman)—the place itself provided the guests with a great dose of creativity.

The Conference aims at ‘exploring trends and diversity in the digital world’. You may think that the agenda would be shaped with designers in mind but as it turned out, the talks and themes were very much universal; still, they dived deep into the subject matters. The ‘cool makers’, as they are called, presented Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality and cities’ sustainability with an academic angle.

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What we also liked is the idea of “sharing is caring” as The Conference is organized by a Media Evolution—a community of 400 companies cultivating the culture of exchanging ideas. It’s a non-profit event and it’s based in Malmö! This energetic city seems to inspire a lot of ideas. Check out what trends we caught in Sweden!

  • The VR performance by Bombina Bombas—a company of Performing Arts and Virtual Reality—helped us experience Virtual Reality and take a new look at the themes of identity. Immersive and thought-provoking, especially for those involved with mixed realities. Great performance at the intersection of VR and art, letting you see the world with someone else’s eyes. Also—a very collective experience! More about the whole initiative can be found here

  • ‘Trust in a post-truth world—who owns data?’ asks Muneeb Ali and predicts that the future of the internet as decentralized. He also takes a closer look at security and the power of innovation among people.

  • ‘Taking on: Rapid Urbanization’ by Erin Malone– the lecture on technology and the sustainable cities. With all the progress and advancements, we need to activate all parts of the cycle.

  • ‘Disrupting status quo by design’ by Leyla Acaroglu. In short—everything is connected; we design the world and it designs us. Interconnectedness was also explored by Alexander Chen from Google Creative Lab.

Last but not least—side events were great! We spent a lovely morning at Ustwo office.

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AWE Europe 2017

The largest tech conference and expo in the world had its second European edition in Munich, Germany in October. It’s an amazing collective of designers, developers, and futurists bringing and sharing their brand-new ideas to the table.

So which trends we liked the most?

  • Definitely Google Glass Enterprise. After an unsuccessful release of the first consumer version, the company teamed up with Ubimax to create Google Glass 2.0. The speakers—Hendrik Witt, Ubimax CEO and Jay Kothari from Google—explained that it’s not targeted at selfie and social media users anymore, but rather front-line workers who need their hands free while keeping the workflow efficient and professional (e.g. engineers, suppliers, doctors etc.). The main aim was to make a practical workplace tool that saves time and money. More about the project can be found here.
  • Anastasia Miron, a social mompreneur (as she likes calling herself) talked about her Child Proof Yourself project. It leverages VR to teach parents how to deal with all the difficult situations that come with raising a child. The idea behind it is to have ‘more connected parents that learn how to deal with the most difficult situations, like anger, puberty, talking about sex or divorce’, Anastasia says.
  • Another interesting project that caught our eye was the Best-in-Show award winner Soldamatic by Seabery. The project uses AR as a cheaper and safer way of training students whose work requires technical skills, such as railwaymen or surgeons. The augmented training allows them to enhance their learning process before attending the real workshop.

In case you ever want to learn welding, these guys have you covered with their full blown AR welding simulator. #AWE2017 pic.twitter.com/506xm8tfWx— René Schulte (@rschu) October 20, 2017

Stay tuned

Inspired by all the ideas, we’re looking forward to our MCE Conference. We all hope you’ll be there!

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JoannaCommunication Lead
SławomirProject Manager
DorotaProject Manager
ChrisVR/AR Expert
KarolinaHead of Design
UlaCommunication Specialist

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