Wired 2016 presents what's new in AI, VR and tech activism
Despite an absence of fashion tech at Wired 2016, the annual conference (too dull a word for the excitement served up) demonstrates fashions in tech, of a sort.
It’s that time of the year pre-christmas when many a head is full of ideas, swarming with information from dozens of conferences, meet-ups, launches, talks and exhibitions when it’s time to cut through the noise and find out what to focus on – some of which you may have heard of and some you definitely won’t have. Welcome to Wired 2016.
Those with true passion for innovation know that the most exciting ideas and creations arise from special situations involving special people. Whether they be from tech, medicine, art, music, engineering or social sciences. Ideally, they’ll be a mix of these fields. I look forward to seeing fashion added to this mix as the fashion tech sector grows on the back of the launch of Plexal and other cross-disciplinary hubs.
Before the talks kicked-off I browsed the demo area and was struck by the COLLAPSE SCULPTURES (above) by ScanLAB Projects, who gave a fascinating talk at Wired 2015, and are a team specialising in large-scale 3D scanning in architecture and the creative industries. COLLAPSE is a collaboration between ScanLAB projects, dance company New Movement Collective and composer/cellist Oliver Coates. This series of sculptures features digitally fabricated fragments of dancer’ limbs which are suspended, lingering where their performer once created them. Traces of movement are solidified and stand as physical echoes.
From art to tech, standout talks at Wired 2016 included Hike, the Indian messaging app that works offline (useful in a country where connectivity is patchy and data is bought in packages) and transcends the dozens of languages and avoids complex keyboards by using digital stickers as tools of communication. 50% of households in India share smart phones, so the privacy app allowing hiding of selected conversations is a hit with young family members.
Mustafa Suleyman co-founded DeepMind, now owned by Google, and is forging ahead with the application of AI to solve some of the worlds biggest problems. The use of AI diagnosis in medical imaging can speed up treatment times for cancer and improve patient prognosis. DeepMind are attempting to solve the problem of most NHS data currently being written on paper, and therefore largely inaccessible. Mustafa says “In life, data is pushed to us. In the NHS it’s passive”.
Syrian human-rights activist Abdulaziz Alhamza is the co-founder of RBSS – Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently – a defiant broadcasting platform that exposes the devastation and brutality caused by ISIS in his home town. RBSS covertly captures images and videos, sharing them on social media and acting as a news source for news organisations.
Philip Rosedale is CEO and co-founder of High Fidelity – a shared VR experience that has global users sharing experiences by meeting in VR “locations” around the virtual world. It’s like creating your own avatar, hanging out with other avatars and socialising with them, like you might do in real life.
Adding to the Indian flavour running through the two days of Wired, Gingger Shankar told a beautiful story of her experience in the musical family made famous by Ravi Shankar and the plight of her mother who broke out of domesticity to sing on a global stage. The gems of Wired are in the unexpected, and I captured her playing the ten-string double violin and sharing with us her five octave voice. Enjoy, and stand by for part two of my coverage of Wired 2016.