Fern goes to SXSW

22 Mar 2016

A promised round up of Some Things from SXSW 2016

For full disclosure, my experience of SXSW was truncated (I was there for one day) and suboptimal. If you haven't been to this giant expo of interactive/ tech/ entertainment/ content speaker sessions with an associated fringe scene of demos and stunt, it is possibly the best example of the
Paradox of Choice​ ever. Being unschooled in who was likely to offer the best exploration of the opportunities of artificial intelligence, virtual reality and Obama - the themes of the moment - I instead did what I do at the Edinburgh fringe:


I meticulously waded through the entire speaker list and very very carefully picked three events that were... well.. rubbish. ​I won't say who they were that would be rude. But they were the equivalent of a student mime production of the Orestaia with additional juggling.

Anyway luckily for me I attended with some very smart people from our innovation team who did know what they were doing and gladly shared the things they thought were notable.

 

So with due appreciation for their wisdom (their SXSW experience in pictures is here if you are interested) here is what I might have enjoyed at SXSW with their guidance:

Artifical intelligence
The big news that week was this:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-35810133

 

Further discussion here:
As unlikely as this might seem I actually know a tiny bit about Go because I once
knew someone who dominated the Go league for so long he had to resign to let someone else have a go. This is what I know about Go: it's really complex and the decisions possible in each turn are possibly even more baffling than the SXSW programme.


The final paragraph of this article covering the event is, however, beautiful. It's not about Man V Machine. It's about Man AND Machine.

Anyway with this news looming large, the AI events were well attended including this one:


Siri, plus AI = http://viv.ai/
The man behind Siri takes talking to a machine a step further, with a team working on a conversational interface that is able to learn and grow its knowledge and which can be applied to ANYTHING. My mind can't really hold the implications of that but he gave this example in a Wired interview recently with a scenario which I can imagine:


"He envisions someone unsteadily holding a phone to his mouth outside a dive bar at 2 am and saying, “I’m drunk.” Without any elaboration, Viv would contact the user’s preferred car service, dispatch it to the address where he’s half passed out, and direct the driver to take him home. No further consciousness required."

Diversity
So,
this study has found that whilst drunk people, as well as the suicidal and otherwise troubled people can already get a certain amount of advice from Siri, those who have been sexually assaulted, suffered domestic abuse or who have mental health crises are met with silence.


The lack of diversity in the tech world continues to dog our ability to meet a broader spectrum of human needs, whilst the many possibilities of VR/AR demonstrated at the show rarely strayed much further than the male bucketlist, with the big name demos being extreme sports, gaming and porn. Well done, lads.

The programme included many speeches on the ills of developing technology from one person's point of view, including the authors of
this somewhat depressing study​.

Obamas
My friend and colleague Scott got a golden ticket to go and see Obama's keynote. He now suffers from a crippling man crush and the full force of my envy. Still, we can all join in and watch the keynote
here.


Although word is, his wife's talk at SXSW music, on the subject of promoting women and girl's education was even better.  (SXSW is not a good place to be if you suffer FOMO)

My own personal crush cannot be swayed from
another Keynote presenter, however. I could listen to/ watch Casey Gerald talk forever, and wish I had. Sigh.

So, Robots playing Go, women struggling in tech and a preacher for Socially Enlightened business.
Only, connect.

Oh, whoops I forgot to mention the highlight of my trip. A stunt for a local agency, in which my face was made to appear in a tortilla. Awesome.

 

Go here for more from Fern Miller

 

 

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