A couple of us were lucky enough to attend Collision Conference in Toronto last week where we heard from a number of great brands and speakers.
We’ve already been using Voiceflow as part of our own design efforts, so it was great to meet the CEO.
It’s a really handy tool for developing VUIs and then being able to export them to both Google and Echo.
Being able to streamline the design, testing and deployment of voice services means that brands can bring their experiences to audiences and evolve them much quicker.
We saw Voiceflow pitch for investment as they scale-up to meet the demands of the voice market.
We heard Joseph Gordon-Levitt discuss his platform, HITRECORD; a platform for bringing collaborators from all over the world together to deliver projects; whether that’s a piece of art, music, illustration or video.
Joe believes that he makes collaborations possible that would never get off the ground normally. And it seems to be working; the platform has published books, shown films at Sundance, released vinyl records, delivered award-winning ad campaigns and even won an EMMY.
The platform monetises projects where it can, but is more about delivering great projects that would otherwise never have happened. The actual business opportunity and reason for investing was not discussed in too much detail which was slightly disappointing.
Google’s Waymo was probably one of the most interesting propositions of the day. Their CTO, Dmitri Dolgov talked us through the advanced levels of AI and hardware they are utilising to bring driverless cars to the masses.
Currently, it’s being rolled out as a ride-hailing service across a few states in North America, providing a similar service to Uber.
It was really interesting to hear about the amount of data it takes for a car to understand the road and then the scenarios that have to be built into the system for anticipating other road users.
They were very clear that there mission is not to build a car or a service; it’s to build the world’s best driver and reduce the number of vehicle-related deaths worldwide.
Sony Interactive Entertainment (PlayStation)
We were lucky enough to hear from PlayStation’s chairman, Shawn Layden.
As you’d expect, PlayStation have a number of game studios around the world. Through the encouraged diversity of their studios, they are now seeing results in their games they’ve never seen before.
He specifically discussed their new game, Ghost of Tsushima, that has been developed by their Washington Studio. The game is based around the rise of the Mongol army in 1274 Japan and brings in many Japanese traditions, such as the Samurai Defenders.
PlayStation are particularly proud of this as the Washington studio had been able to develop a game that was true to Japanese traditions, with the US design team even overwhelming their Japanese HQ at how culturally correct it was - something that wouldn’t have been possible without a diverse team.
Charity Water was particularly impressive; their founder, Scott Harrison, took us through his journey; from volunteering to founding the charity.
There was a couple of points to his proposition that we found pertinent.
Firstly, having worked with a number of charities ourselves, we know that in third world countries, donations can be susceptible to fuelling corruption and crime through a lack of transparency from donation to implementation.
To get around this, Scott has two funds for the charity; one that covers the charity’s overheads and is represented by a number of angel investors and VCs, and another fund, made up of “public donations”, that funds the water projects. This way, Scott says, the charity can ensure 100% of donations go towards charity projects.
Having researched this since, there’s a lot of scepticism in the press around this model; 100% of their donations are not really going towards charity, as overheads are still technically being covered by donations.
But the charity has funded nearly 40,000 projects, so we can’t be too sceptical of their model.
The other interesting part of the charity is how they monitor and maintain the water points they have already implemented. Working with Google, the charity have implemented GPS technology to monitor the flow of water - this way, Scott and his team can check the status of a well from anywhere in the world and send a team to fix it where there are issues.
A great example of tech for good.
Throughout the day we heard from a number of other speakers and brands, such as Timbaland, AKON, Samsung, Bitmoji and a number of VCs. It was great to hear the different challenges that organisations were overcoming when developing new propositions; from from concept to funding (and often to exit).
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UpFront 2019; what we learnt...
A couple of members of the Absurd Front End team were in attendance at this year’s UpFront conference at Manchester's Bridgewater Hall.