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Emtech Asia 2018: The Future Of Tech

EmTech Asia 2018 brought together some of the best and brightest minds and visionaries from around the world, with the chief purpose of sharing and discussing the latest developments in pertinent topics in technology. This was the fifth iteration of EmTech (short for “Emerging Technology”) Asia, which was co-organised by MIT Technology Review and Koelnmesse Pte Ltd. This year’s conference featured speakers from a broad variety of topics: experts in the fields of artificial intelligence, quantum computing, robotics, automation, future cities, space and aerospace innovation, augmented and virtual reality, and bioengineering. VR Zone had the opportunity to attend EmTech Asia 2018 – here are some of the highlights. 

Zee Kin Yeong (left), Assistant Chief Executive, Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), together with Host Mike North (right), Discovery Channel. Image: EmTech Asia

First in the line of stellar speakers was Paul Smith from Hyperloop One talking about the progress of the venture and its potential to connect Asian cities. The concept behind Hyperloop is one of frictionless travel – carriages levitate atop rails like a Maglev bullet train; the air is then sucked out of an air-tight tube to ensure that aerodynamic drag is kept at a minimum.  At just under the speed of sound, the Hyperloop has the potential to eliminate the need for air travel between distant cities. The concept of on-demand departures gives passengers flexibility to plan their travel and not bound to train or flight schedules. 

Paul’s captivating presentation was followed by one by Cooling Singapore, presenting their findings on urban heat island (UHI) effect on Singapore. UHI occurs in dense metropolitan areas (like in most of Singapore) due to human activity and buildings that trap heat. Scientists have been collecting a vast amount of data and creating a heat model of Singapore for future livability of the city-state in order to find suitable solutions. With this, they can provide advice for the future urban planning of Singapore to make it more comfortable to live in. 

The main highlight for us was the virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR). Alvin Wang Graylin, China President of Vive,  who presented his vision for our VR future and ambitious goal. He sees VR as the next step in the user interfaces of our digital devices as it allows the user to go in and interact with the world of their choosing. It will be part of our daily lives like how smartphones are now. He envisioned an ambitious goal of achieving 5 billion by 2025. We had an interview with him and also a short hands-on with the Vive Focus from him.

The Deputy Director of Sony Computer Science Lab, Jun Rekimoto also presented some interesting research on the application of VR and AR. He mentioned that XR (Expanded Reality) has the potential as a platform to bring users into the experience of others. JackIn Head was a research project by Sony. It involves wearing a 360º camera on your head in order to record footage, which it then projects to a VR headset for others to view your experience. Think about it like a game spectator mode brought to real life. Rekimoto also presented Sony’s telepresence project, allowing your likeness to be projected upon surrogate humans via tablet. These ideas are part of Sony’s Internet of Abilities (IoA) project, which envisions enabling users to experience things in ways otherwise impossible for them.

Day 2

EmTech Asia 2018 continued on with the topic of Artificial Intelligence. Future application, research, and hardware were presented. Applications range from content generation to security. Tencent’s AI Lab presented their approach to AI application with three scenarios: games, social, and content. NVIDIA envisioned AI as a powerful tool for human aimed to help users and improve their work.

AI hardware has also been evolving with different approaches to the problem. Chief Scientist of NVIDIA, Bill Dally, presented the challenges AI computation takes and their solution to it. NVIDIA applied their knowhow from building GPUs to build hardware for AIs, resulting in the Volta V100 and Xavier SoC. The company believed that efficiency would be the key to enabling AI on more devices.

EmTech ended with a panel discussion on the future of aerospace (and mostly space). This segment was quite highly anticipated as it brought in a SpaceX engineer to present SpaceX’s case for rocket reusability and their vision for interplanetary humanity. Other speakers also talked about CubeSats and cheaper launch cost would be the trend in the future especially for companies. 


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