Futurefest rightly describes itself as ‘Nesta’s flagship weekend event of immersive experiences, compelling performances and radical speakers to excite and challenge perceptions of the future.’ The event sprawled across the inspiring spaces of Vinopolis and brought together techies, thinkers, academics, artists, futurologists, journalists, writers, designers and robots. So many ideas that were conceptual at the beginning of my career are now here as technologies have become cheaper, smaller, more accessible and are significantly impacting on our world and of course, shaping our future. As one speaker said ‘Augmented reality is now a reality.’ Here are five key moments that stood out for me:
This art project involves a robot that takes on the
appearance of any face that it sees. Standing in front of the robot my own face slowly appeared on the robot’s face. The goal is to promote bonding although it acknowledges that this can also cause discomfort and a sense of repulsion. The creators told me about work that is being done to use robots with expressions to help autistic people recognise expressions or offer company to people living in old people homes.
Adrian Cheok presented exciting developments in pervasive computing. Computing that engages all the senses such as sharing a hug or a kiss through the internet and sending smells through a smart phone.
3) The Future of Confectionary
Food futurologist, Dr Morgaine Gaye hurtled through current and future trends in confectionery falling under the six key themes of texture, water, vending, experience, health and edible packaging. Highlights include non-drip ice cream that can be sculpted into shapes, defatted insects ground into a sustainable, protein rich powder that could be used to bake cakes and smells surprisingly like cocoa, and vending machines that distribute crafted food such as freshly baked baguettes, jewelry in high end hotels or the current US craze of the Cupcake ATM. Worryingly, one of the hot future trends is the experience of community dining and sharing after a trend of eating alone.
Arup Visualisation used incredible digital models and visualisation techniques to communicate the vision for the exciting Garden Bridge. This bridge proposed to be built in around 2018 will stand on the Thames and have two giant hollow piers big enough to support trees as well as a huge diversity of native plants. They hope the upkeep will be supported by community gardeners.
5) The Gender Setting: Flexible Technology, Narrow Sexuality: Panel Discussion
‘We shape our tools and then our tools shape us’. Only 8-9% of UK tech companies were founded by women. There has been a notable decrease in female students studying computer science. A narrow group of young, white males dominate the tech industry and consequently are producing limited tech solutions and ideas. For example, Apple’s camera light levels are optimised for white or pale skin and their healthtracking app tracks many health aspects excluding the menstrual cycle. The perfect worker in this industry is positioned as a person with no dependents who will work full time and always be available. This debate described the current situation in relation to women working in technology and discussed what needs to be done including clever use of role models, the need for women to help other women and requirement to integrate women not only at board level but across the whole structure of a company.