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Austin is Texas' tech hub and, as such, it's no surprise that it's most incredible festival features equally incredible technology panels. With hundreds of industry leaders covering topics that range all across the board, no matter the subject, there is an expert who is speaking about it.

Each year new foci reflect changes in the newest technological frontiers, along with addressing the shifts in sensibilities that they bring about. This year's Interactive portion of the festival hones in on a few themes; Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, and the intersection between Art and Technology. That's not to say that you need to understand these things to get value out of your time. The hundreds of panels to choose from range in difficulty from beginner, intermediate, to advanced, so you can surely find a session that matches your skill level. 

To assist in finding your next favorite topic to break out at dinner parties, we compiled a handy date-sorted guide of the panels that most stimulated our CPUs. If you can't make it to the festival this year, keep your cyborg eyes peeled for recaps where we'll break down key takeaways from our favorite panels. 

The Emotional Life of Your Autonomous Car

Mar 9, 2018 | 12:30pm – 1:30pm - Fairmont Manchester CD

We name our cars. We talk to our cars. The relationship we have with our cars is emotional. And it's about to get more complicated. With the convergence of affective technology and artificial intelligence, emotional interactions with our vehicles will become the norm. Concept cars can already understand and adapt to our emotions. Pavliscak will look at current examples of emotional AI, how a car with a higher EQ could help or harm, and a framework for inventing an emotionally intelligent future. Source.


Envisioning Holograms: For Storytellers & Explorers

Mar 9, 2018 | 3:30pm – 4:30pm - Austin Convention Center - Room 10AB

Designing truly breakthrough experiences for Mixed Reality (the seamless blending of digital content into the physical world) requires a big mindshift, some non-obvious techniques, and a totally new approach. Come talk about what’s so different when working with holograms, how to think spatially, and where to start designing your own breakthrough projects without the need for expensive tools or a designer’s skillset. Source.

Quantum Computing: Science Fiction to Science Fact

Mar 10, 2018 | 11:00am – 12:00pm - Fairmont Manchester EFG

Startups and established players have sold 2000 Qubit systems, made freely available cloud access to quantum computer processors, and created large scale open source initiatives, all taking quantum computing from science fiction to science fact. Government labs and others like IBM, Microsoft, Google are developing software for quantum computers. What problems will be solved with this quantum leap in computing power that cannot be solved today with the world’s most powerful supercomputers? Source.

Sci-Fi to Reality: Evolution of AI in the Workplace

Mar 10, 2018 | 12:30pm – 1:30pm - Fairmont Manchester B

People spend 2.5 hours/day searching for information, pointing to enormous friction in the flow of using it. Imagine a workflow that already prioritizes what you need to do based on the people you collaborate with or action items that are sent from meeting notes. This session will dive into trends and technologies like machine learning & AI that are evolving to connect data from many sources and infer deeper insights into patterns of thinking, to usher in a new era of workplace productivity. Source.

Designing the Next Wave of Natural Language and AI

Mar 11, 2018 | 11:00am – 12:00pm - Fairmont Manchester CD

We've seen huge changes in technology recently; the evolution of the web, the mobile revolution, and now the beginning of AI and ubiquitous computing. But what new future should we design? Speakers from Google, Frog Design, Mercedes-Benz and Microsoft will discuss and debate AI Next. What new experiences should we unlock in an intelligent, connected, interactive world that surrounds us? Will speaking be enough or will we have to invent new ways of interacting? What shouldn't we ask AI to do? Source.


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Can We Create Consciousness in a Machine?

Mar 11, 2018 | 12:30pm – 1:30pm - Fairmont Manchester EFG

Consciousness is the deepest part of humanity. Now, innovative research is ushering in a new era of truly intelligent machines. They will be our partners in solving the great medical, technical, and scientific problems of the world. And their thinking may share some of the fantastic beauty, unpredictability, and creativity of our own. Join the world’s top thinkers on machine consciousness to debate the challenges and realities of this strange new world. Part of the IEEE Tech for Humanity Series. Source.

Decrypting the Universe: Science and Art at CERN

Mar 11, 2018 | 5:00pm – 6:00pm - JW Marriott Salon E

Artist and designer Laura Couto Rosado spent three months at CERN with particle physicist James Beacham exploring the techniques physicists use to extract complex patterns from the universe. What artistic patterns might data inspire? How do we decode nature's messages? And what does an art/science collaboration mean in this context? Together with Monica Bello, Director of Arts at CERN, the outcomes of this initiative from the most important scientific institution in Europe will be discussed. Source.

Rogue Robots and the Potential for Cyber Attack

Mar 12, 2018 | 11:00am – 12:00pm - Fairmont Manchester CD

Robots will soon become a ubiquitous feature of modern life. But is the current ecosystem of industrial robots secure enough to withstand a cyber-attack? This session will examine current robots and their implementations and demonstrate whether it is possible to compromise them. Beyond examining the core issues, this session will discuss what can be done to improve the security of the ecosystem and how we need to shift our thinking around industrial robots. Source.

Reddit: Life After (Near) Death

Mar 12, 2018 | 12:30pm – 1:30pm - Hilton Austin Downtown Salon H

Steve Huffman co-founded Reddit, which billed itself “the front page of the Internet,” at age 21. When he returned to the company more than a decade later, in 2015, as chief executive, he faced terrible morale, and inability to ship products. The company had been rocked by a series of high-profile scandals. To get back on the course of growth, Huffman (known on Reddit as u/Spez) would have to fix several underlying problems. Two years later, he’s hired nearly 300 people, grown Reddit to the 4th-most-popular site in the United States, and managed to quell toxic speech on the site. In a conversation with award-winning journalist Christine Lagorio-Chafkin, who is writing a book about Reddit called We Are the Nerds, Huffman will open up about bringing his creation back from the brink. Source. 

Convergence Keynote: Mayor Sadiq Khan

Mar 12, 2018 | 2:00pm – 3:00pm - Austin Convention Center Ballroom D

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, will focus his keynote speech on one of the biggest challenges today facing Britain, America and countries across Europe – how we ensure that advances in technology are utilised for the benefit of everyone in society. In the context of the rise in populism and the major economic, political and societal changes we've seen in recent years, Mayor Khan will use his speech to address both the potential risks and great opportunities presented by the current tech revolution. Source.

Why Machine Learning is the Next Frontier for Art

Mar 12, 2018 | 3:30pm – 4:30pm - Fairmont Manchester CD

In November 2017, Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” sold for $450M, the most expensive work ever sold at auction. What determines an artwork’s value, and how can one piece be worth such a high price? Can a machine determine the value of art? Just as machine learning has revolutionized other consumer industries such as music, social media, and fashion, Artsy is exploring how it can be used to support a more open, more democratic, and easier-to-navigate art world. Source.


A Hearable Future: Sound & Sensory Interface

Mar 13, 2018 | 11:00am – 12:00pm - Fairmont Manchester CD

Dolby Chief Scientist Poppy Crum explores the untapped potential of our ears and the totally unique, omnidirectional, closed loop capabilities of sound that will shape tomorrow’s hottest technologies. Find out how signal processing, speech recognition, sensors and sound generation will help us seamlessly integrate more information into our world with far less distraction – extending capabilities beyond that of Alexa, Google Home, AR/VR and gaming apps. Part of the IEEE Tech for Humanity Series. Source.

Fear is in the Hands of the Creator: Horror in VR

Mar 13, 2018 | 12:30pm – 1:30pm - Austin Convention Center Room 6AB

Horror has found an appropriately chilling home in VR, allowing creators and Hollywood studios to capture audiences with mind-bending content. But streaming horror films to headsets isn’t enough, VR creators rely on blatant to subtle tactics, creating anxiety-inducing environments from which the brain’s convinced there’s no return. Expert panelists discuss innovative storytelling strategies for horror-based VR and explore the ethics of developing content deemed too terrifying for consumption. Source.

Enhance Musical Brains: The Cognitive Exoskeleton

Mar 14, 2018 | 11:00am – 12:00pm - Austin Convention Center - Exhibit Hall 4

Science meets music in a live experiment, where neuroscientist demonstrate how human-machine teams may help people lead better lives. Using a brain-sensing headband, scientists will monitor the brainwaves of the band Beemo and select audience members simultaneously during a live show. This information is collected for Lockheed Martin’s Cognitive Exoskeleton and displayed as color-coded graphs on a giant screen. Source.

Empathy and Intimacy: Are We Really Feeling VR?

Mar 14, 2018 | 12:30pm – 1:30pm - JW Marriott Salon 3-4

The term ‘empathy machine’ is being overused and is risking devaluation & possibly steering VR in the wrong emotional direction. For many, evolving beyond empathy means intimacy, simulating relationships with characters. VR creators from intimacy and empathy perspectives & psychological researchers discuss the accuracy of empathy-provoking VR, effects of intimate VR & how to best leverage VR’s ability to inflict emotions to create innovative content that exposes the medium & stories of others. Source.

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