I’d like to conduct a thought experiment. Given the technologies available today, what would a day at an event look like if those technologies were put to good use in enhancing the experience of its attendees? Here are the rules- the technologies must be those we’ve worked with here at Streaker, or at the very least leverage the expertise possessed by our creative technologists. They must be applied in a way that enhances the experience of attendees (and by extension the event organisers and vendors) and be a feasible implementation; not a fanciful imagining that could be mistaken for science fiction.
Oh, and of course, names are fictional- and to make things interesting, there will be a sprinkling of Easter Eggs throughout the article. See how many you can spot and at the end of the article you can see how well you did. Are you ready? Then let’s begin.
Meet Eliza. She’s a freelance software developer with over 20 years experience. She’s programmed in many languages, and has a creative side. Given a choice she would rather drive a conversation with her own questions rather than be given a pre-written spiel about a thing. She’s social, and posts regularly to platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Actually, she’s lazy (read ‘smart’) and just posts to Instagram, and lets it do the follow-on posting to the other platforms, but she will take the time to hashtag her posts. Some of the time her hashtags are ironic, but that’s almost expected these days. She posts about her status as a vegetarian, but not enough to be annoying.
Eliza has registered for “ConCon”, (Not the Chilean city) a technological conference organised by EventDudes, an experienced event management company. Over 100 vendors have set up stalls at ConCon, with a range of services, some of which overlap; all of which have undergone a registration process of their own with EventDudes, in which they have provided a rich set of data that describes what their business does.
In the time between registration of attendees and the first day of the event, EventDudes employed a subset of Artificial Intelligence known as Machine Learning to create a set of weighted associations between the conference’s vendors and attendees. Eliza’s social profile and posts provided the data needed by the machine learning algorithms in order to create a meaningful set of relationships between the interests of attendees and the products and services offered by the conference vendors.
Eliza grabbed a quick doubleshot complimentary coffee and walked into the conference floor where she noticed an intriguing looking booth. She noticed attendees being given headsets to wear, and after a short time, were issued with a printout. Her curiosity was piqued, and before too long she was next in line to try. She was told that the headset could read her emotions using electroencephalogram (EEG) technology, and on that basis give her some recommendations for booths to visit at the conference. She tried on the headset and was treated to a very engaging visualisation of her brain’s processes. Shortly, she was given a list of the top 10 vendors to visit. She was amazed to see ‘CodeCrunchers’ near the top of the list.
CodeCrunchers, offered a Program Correctness Verification service. Eliza knew a fair bit about the topic, and didn’t need to be given a lecture on the subject. As she approached the CodeCrunchers booth, her face was recognised by cameras at the booth, and the good people at CodeCrunchers were able to know enough about Eliza to know how to best serve her needs. “What would you like to know?” asked Tashen Dromey, CEO of CodeCrunchers.
Minutes later and Eliza was on her way to the next booth. From the corner of her eye she noticed an impressive figure rolling her way. “Beep beep - robot coming through” said the robot. It was clear to see that it was indeed coming through, accompanied by a well put-together gentleman. “Would you like a selfie?” he asked. “Sure why not?” Eliza replied. EventDudes had hired the robot known as ‘SelfieBot’ on behalf of ConCon to roam around the conference floor amd directly engage with attendees. Eliza entered her details and moments later was holding a high quality photo print of her image, framed by ConCon branded graphics. Eliza’s interaction with SelfieBot had generated quite a bit of buzz and as such a queue had formed, and so Eliza thanked the Human Operator and headed to the next booth.
Eliza was keen to go and find ‘BitBras’, a novel startup that used wearable technology to assist in diagnosing breast cancer, but wasn’t exactly sure where they might be. She could see the Human-staffed information booth was busy, and so she went to the ConCon website and clicked on ‘Constantine’ a chatbot built by EventDudes to streamline registration, answer frequently asked questions, and help attendees find vendors. She typed ‘Give me directions to BitBras’, and was prompted to use an Augmented Reality guide to help her find her way there. Eliza’s answer was not surprising. She held her phone up in front of her, and after a few seconds the system had identified where she was standing by using the phone’s camera to identify AR glyphs placed on each booth, and was therefore able to overlay wayfinding graphics that pointed her in the right direction. When there was a clear line of sight between Eliza and the BitBras booth, her phone made a subtle but audible ‘ping’ and informed her that she had arrived.
It was time for lunch and Eliza headed for the food hall. She noticed as her fellow attendees approached the servers, she noticed them scanning their lanyards and then immediately handing them their food. She assumed that they must have specified their dietary preferences during the registration for the event, but didn’t remember being asked that question. She figured she’d just let them know when she got there. To her surprise, that wasn’t going to be necessary. Once again her social media posts had provided the relevant information and after her lanyard was scanned she was passed the vegetarian special.
During lunch Eliza realised she’d visited all of the vendors she’d planned to and so wondered what others might interest her. Once again she consulted the Constantine chatbot app. It already had a very good idea of what she might like, and the day’s interactions had only improved that notion. Within moments Eliza had the rest of her day mapped out, and by the end of it had discovered a handful of new businesses and all the glorious swag that this entailed.
Projects referenced in this Story
Easter Eggs in this Story
ELIZA was the name of a natural language conversational program described by Joseph Weizenbaum in January 1966. As an artificial intelligence student in the 1990s we were asked to recreate it for our coursework.
The reference to Tashen Dromey is an homage to Tashen’s father Geoff Dromey, author of several papers relating to the concept of program correctness- a mathematical proof that a program does what it is supposed to. Professor Dromey was my lecturer for several subjects in my undergraduate degree.