What a thrill it was to be part of ‘The Next Web Conference’ last month, an event that many call the “Tomorrowland” of the tech and digital industry! On May 18 and 19, the Westerpark factories in Amsterdam became the walhalla of digital/tech/design trends with an amazing line-up of inspiring speakers. Join us on a quick but insightful snapshot of this highly informative adventure…

Audience is key

A few speakers spoke about data, knowing your customers and translating this data into the right message. We listened to Kodi Foster of Data Viacom and Ray Chan of 9GAG. It’s important to know what keeps your customers busy, what they are interested in, and what keeps them awake at night. To do so, you need data and, even more importantly, a good analysis of this data. That is one of the mistakes that Pepsi made with their last – very painful - commercial. They misinterpreted data and used the wrong influencers.

Speaking of influencers, this trending topic was the focus of speaker Ryan Detert, CEO of data-driven influencer platform “Influential”. His platform collects demographic and psychological characteristics with the help of IBM Watson to find the right influencers for a certain brand. A very interesting and fascinating part of “Influential” is face recognition. It scans actual people on photos related to your brand and immediately tells you if these people are happy, mad, sad…  So when you’re looking for the right influencer to reach the right audience, tools like “Influential” can have massive … shall we say … influence!

Virtual reality, mixed reality, real reality

In an ever-evolving world, terms like AI, IOT, and VR are popping up like mushrooms. And far too quickly, it turns out: we are not ready for this virtual world in which robotics and wearables are now such an integral part of our lives. New terms like “mixed reality” point to the merging of real and virtual worlds to help us adjust to the usefulness of tech for our day-to-day needs. For example, gadgets such as Microsoft’s HoloLens use mixed reality to let its users experience a real setting they can sense, together with a virtual world of possibilities they can imagine. Speakers like Lucien Engelen and Purna Virji taught us that while many new tech gadgets like the HoloLens or the new Sony Playstation VR are designed for the consumer market, there is another level of application to be found in healthcare as well. To give an example, Microsoft designed an app and special glasses for blind people so that they can observe their environment and be aware of their surroundings. With these glasses, they can go to a restaurant and ‘read’ the menu without bothering other people. This example is a great way of using new technologies like AI and iOT to improve life. Discover Microsoft’s “Seeing AI” project:

Microsoft Cognitive Services: Introducing the Seeing AI project

Another very inspiring case from Microsoft is Project Emma, a wearable that helps with Parkinson's tremors, which works by sending vibrations to the brain. 

Build 2017: Project Emma

And to address the third term in this subtitle, a remarkable recurring topic in these sessions was the notion of “RR”, or “real reality”. Besides technology, marketing, trends and other digital wizards, we need to remember that “any kind” of reality is about human beings. We can’t forget the real reality, in which we need to be aware of the effect of marketing. With the evolution of life and technology comes an access to unlimited data that can be used for purposes other than marketing, including its ‘misuse’ in ways that aren’t legitimate or socially responsible. Maybe we have a responsibility to give back more to the community in return for this unlimited data, research and sales revenues.

To leave you with a closing thought, I’d like to quote Nir Eyal, author of Hooked (www.nirandfar.com): “The difference between software companies and the tobacco industry is that we know which of our users are addicted to our product, since we have the data. So we should have a moral obligation to help people to cut back on their usage. Instead, some companies are aiming to develop “whales”: the 1-3% of users who use the product so much that they get addicted. That is immoral and should be stopped in our industry.“

After two information-rich days, we went home with a lot of knowledge, inspiring quotes and a sad feeling because we had to leave Amsterdam. BUT! For the less lucky bastards who couldn’t attend The Next Web Conference, they’ve recorded all the speakers on YouTube.

See you next year!

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