5 November 2019

Do Siemens booth unicorns dream of AI sheep?

The nerds have arrived at Web Summit 2019, and they are hungry for information – and stuffed petrol coloured Siemens unicorns.

Saying it’s overwhelming to walk around Web Summit for the first time is a bit of an understatement. Once you finally arrived you are assaulted by stimulus from every angle: basketball playing nerds, people pitching ideas in boxing rings in the sky and an actual life-size unicorn – say what now?! We even had an endless line of people trying to win our signature coloured unicorns from a claw grab machine all day. Most left empty-handed, but 140 lucky few were still able to snatch up their prize.

But it hits you, this intense frenzy to consume. The ever-fevered running between talks from one stage to another while booth volunteers beckon you to test their wares. So it’s nice to find a small oasis in the corner of the Pavilion closest to the main stage; a quiet place where you can sink into yellow and purple bean bags and grab a great coffee with your name written on it in chocolate.

It’s no real accident that one of the most calming places in Web Summit is the Siemens developers lounge – it’s designed to be. People flocked here all day, either for insight from our IoT talk or for a quiet moment to catch up social. Sure, there are a few other brand-driven meditation centers tucked behind some ominous curtains, but a yogi with an Australian accent is my own personal version of hell. Instead, I’ll take an exercise bike hooked up to a MindSphere-inspired gaming system, thanks.

The comfy couches call upon you to relax and take a minute to fully realize that you just heard that Amazon’s Alexa has finally reached a stage in her development that she no longer needs humans to learn from, according to her overlord, Rohit Prasad, VP & Head Scientist of Alexa Artificial Intelligence.

No wonder when we asked if anyone on social media had questions for our Technology Head of our Siemens AI Lab we were inundated with questions. Acutely we were asked if AI ever replace humans, and sometimes you just need some reassurances.

But AI isn’t all scary. There are other neat ways to interact with coded intelligence that cause you to dance in public. Working with the Berlin-based agency Waltz Binaire we created an AI-based video art installation that allows you to become part of the #Fabric of Lisbon.

The experience is activated once you literally “wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care” and your smooth-ish dance moves become transformed into patterns that envelope and illustrate you in the city’s data. As you can imagine, the nerds are very into it. And, no surprise, so was I.

So what scares you about AI? Is it the fact that it will irrevocably change the way we interact with the world and our workplace? Or the fact that prompts you to dance publicly? Either way it’s coming for you, like a nerd queuing for a stuffed unicorn.

Sorry, sad nerd, better luck next time

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