Inside Look

YOUR WINDOW INTO THE AUSTRALIAN TECH SCENE

Sunday December 16 2018

5 Hot Tech Topics Coming Up At The Melbourne Technology Festival

Written by Alex Holderness

September 27, 2017

If you haven’t heard of Buzzconf, you’re about to.

It’s a family-friendly technology festival with a really unique atmosphere – all participants and presenters spend the weekend together in country Victoria, learning and playing with tech during the day and being entertained by live music all night. We went last year, and it’s pretty epic.

Rick Giner and Ben Dechrai have been doing a pretty stellar job of growing the event year on year, so we recently caught up with 7 of this year’s speakers to get a sneak peek into what’s on the radar in the tech community this year, and get a little insight into what to expect from this year, other than a boatload of marshmallows and beer.

1. Voice Recognition Software

Who: Erin Zimmer, (Software Developer at Australia Post) and Patrick CatanzaritiAKA PatCat.

On the sessions:

Erin: I’ll be asking the question,  how much does Siri really understand? I’m talking about the history of voice recognition software, and where we’re at with it today. Given the recent explosion of personal assistants like Siri and Alexa on the market, I thought it would be interesting to find out how they work, why they have gained so much popularity so quickly, and how much they really understand.

Patrick: I’ll be running a crash course on building voice assistants and AI using existing services, platforms and APIs. I’ll also be helping run a workshop on VR and how to build for web-based VR alongside Alex Mackey. Both VR and voice assistants/AI are hugely relevant in this era of emerging tech as the way we interface with technology evolves and changes from the typical keyboard, mouse and screen. Voice assistants are part of a glorious trend away from the necessity for society to stare at screens all day, bringing us access to technology in increasingly simpler and more convenient ways. With the Amazon Echo and Google Home really starting to pick up steam, and a whole range of competing devices on the way now is the time to be thinking about how to build for this emerging medium! WebVR is also especially exciting for me with the growing levels of support it is gaining from web browsers — with Mozilla Firefox leading the charge! Being able to spread VR experiences far and wide requiring no download, in a cross-platform and easy to access way fills me with some pretty strong levels of excitement.

2. 3D Printing

Who: Adam Purdie (Senior DevOps at REA Group)

What: Rapid prototyping with 3D printing and 3D printed monsters

On the sessions:

In the last couple of years, in my own time, I have been doing 3d modelling, 3d printing and a lot of electronics – this all adds up to building robotic spiders.  I’ve learned everything I’ve needed to as I go along and it’s the most fun I’ve had in my life.

I’m very excited to have two workshops at BuzzConf this year, on Friday I am running a full-day rapid prototyping workshop aimed at giving people a method to get complex physical projects finished and working. On Saturday I’m running a 3d modelling workshop where I’ll take people through the skills they will need to make their own monsters! We’ll be printing the monsters in the 3d printing lab I’m bringing with me.

3. AR and Mixed Reality

Who: Lars Klint (Freelance Solution Architect) and Rupert Deans (CEO at Plattar)

On the sessions:

Lars: My session is called  ‘Build AR Experiences on Steroids with Mixed Reality’. It’s one of the current technologies going from strength to strength. More and more devices are being brought to market, and businesses are starting to understand the value of the technology.

Rupert: I’ll be speaking on Augmented reality: 2017 is the year and it is time to get your hands dirty to us on why 2017 is a massive tipping point for AR. He will explore how AR works, how it is being adopted as a powerful tool for some of the largest tech brands in the world, key cases and why this is the start of another media revolution! At the end of the presentation, you will be able to create your own Augmented Reality without the need to code.

4. Getting off the Grid

Who: Lilly Ryan (Software and Systems Engineer at ThoughtWorks)

On the session:

I’m presenting around the topic of how to disappear completely. It’s about the ways in which computers are taught to recognise human beings, and how this kind of thing is flawed. It’s become an even hotter topic in recent months after Apple announced new facial recognition unlocking on their new iPhones, and as people try to teach AIs to recognise things like a person’s sexuality from a photograph (spoilers: boiling down the spectrum of human experience to a range of set values in order to teach an algorithm almost always fails).

5. Electronics and Robotics

Who: CODER DOJO

On the session:

There is no doubt there is an increasing need for people being able to program mechanical devices in the foreseeable future. By introducing robotics to children, we give them an opportunity to explore programming at an early stage of their life and better prepare them for the future. Kids love robotics as they find it fun to make physical things react to their commands. All our workshops are free of charge, we only ask the participants to bring their curiosity and be cool which in Dojo terms means: Be Respectful, Be Inclusive, Be Helpful, Be Patient, Be Kind and Be Positive.

We are running four workshops where kids will have an opportunity to build electric circuits, learn how to program robots with mBots, build and code a car robot using Arduinos or code musical instruments using Makey Makey. The workshops will be filled with hands-on activities so the participants always feel engaged.

These are just a few of the 30+ presentations, workshops and kids activities you’ll find over the weekend. Find out more over at  https://buzzconf.io/

Written by Alex Holderness

September 27, 2017

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