12 December, 2017

Oredev Developer Conference 2017 - A Speaker Report

This article was originally published on Linked In

Øredev Developer Conference is one of the premier developer conferences in Europe. Well-known for their passion for conferencing, special care-taking of speakers and keynote-level topics. I had first heard about Øredev in 2013. At the time, I dreamt of being at the conference someday, but I never imagined being a speaker. This was the first time I submitted a 1-hour talk to Øredev and voila, my talk was selected for the conference.

Conference Topics

Even before I started to prepare for my talk, I got a chance to look at previous years’ recordings of the conference. Very few conferences bring the variety that Øredev brings – be it Product Management, User Experience, Development, Testing, Quality Assurance, DevOps, People Leadership and so forth. The conference also attracts keynoters from top universities across the world working in areas like AI, AR, VR, Mobile, Conversational UI, Bots and many others. Speakers in these areas are mostly practitioners working full-time and presenting their life’s work. Some of these speakers come with a backing of 30 years of professional work. Wow!

My Talk

My talk was on How to Design Intuitive Mobile Apps using Machine Input. I am studying about machine input for 2 years now. I believe that our generation and the ones coming after us do not need the next big website, next cool mobile app or the next sexy bot working for us. I believe that we need products that augment our capabilities and make us better, not the ones who make us feel like shit or in other words, less human.

A bunch of innovators like Dan Saffer, Golden Krishna and David Rose strengthened my beliefs through their wonderful books. It has taken me forever to study the complete works of these great men. Nevertheless, each learning day has been fruitful. I also wrote about it HERE in early 2017. Over time, my interest only grew and hence the idea for a talk was born. If you want to know more about my talk, the kind folks at Øredev have recorded my talk. You can watch it HERE.

Sessions I loved

The Real, the Virtual, and the Cortex - Noah Falstein

Noah talked about VR, AR and Mixed Reality and its life-altering realities. He touched upon neuroscience, talked about how these technologies have enhanced our lives and put us under threat. Often, at conferences, I meet people who want to stitch a chip into kid’s bodies so we could track them when they are at school or other gory stories of how cyborgs can raise the quality of human life.

People like Noah give me hope that we do not want to build invasive products that creep into our bodies, that we need to have empathy, that our communications have to be humane. I just loved the humane touch he gave to his talk. You can find Noah’s talk HERE.

Software & storytelling, programming & play – Linda Liukas

Linda is a great storyteller who teaches programming to kids, girls, young women (and others too) using innovative approaches. Her primary audience includes 6-year-olds on average. For a change, she had an audience with average ages of 25 – 30 years at Øredev where she keynoted.

Before the conference, when I looked up her work, Linda came across as this little charismatic girl, always smiling, doing what she loves and working with the most awesome generation one ever can – young kids. It was good to learn about her. My takeaways from her talk included the metaphors/analogies that little kids can understand and key principles around teaching and learning. Linda is a breath of fresh air! You can watch her talk HERE

What is AI? Can computers become intelligent through playing games? – Julian Togelius

Julian is an Associate Professor at New York University. He showed several case studies of games and how computers could become intelligent using gaming patterns with live demos of some of the old games he has studied. His emphasis lay on AI and how videos games can help augment AI. Again, his talk demonstrated the deep work done in AI for several years.

Writing Apps for Mars – Kurt Leucht

Kurt’s talk could have touched many a developer’s ego. He asked one fundamental question, ‘Developers take pride in the products they build. But do they know how those products perform in the real environment?’ He went on to give an example of onboard software for Mars rover (Oh! By the way, Kurt works for NASA. Ahem!) and show the differences between a good mobile app and a business app that serves a mission-critical need. A fabulous talk for mobile enthusiasts to focus on the purpose of building apps. Kurt’s talk is HERE if you are curious.

Conversational UIs: Talking to Siri, Alexa, and Your Web Browser – Scott Davis

Scott was a high-energy person who gave a fabulous talk on bringing Siri, Alex and web browsers together. His talk had real-life examples of how his daughter who cannot speak clearly types data, asks Siri to read it for her, while Alexa listens to Siri and executes the commands. This is the kind of technology we need to create – to augment the abilities of differently abled people of our times and upcoming generations. I felt great hope for the future. Scott’s talk can be watched HERE.

Key takeaways

Øredev is a conference with ~1300 attendees and 100+ speakers. It is not humanly possible to attend all sessions. I watched many of them after the conference. It was fun. You too can watch the Øredev talk videos HERE.

I loved the talks around Conversational UIs, Bots, Virtual Reality concepts, Leadership and Product management talks. I was happy to learn (repeatedly) that there are humans who are concerned about fellow humans and not super gaga about plugging USBs into people’s heads or integrated chips into people's bodies. Linda Liukas’s teaching techniques were the biggest takeaway as I am looking up to designing my own tutorials next year. If you want to do just one thing after reading this, watch Linda’s talk for me.

Until next Øredev, Aloha!

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