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Read our latest news, event top takeouts and announcements.

  • 18 Dec 2018 14:17 | Anonymous


    ‘Tis the season for catching up on all the interesting books, videos, podcasts and articles you didn’t have time to get through during the year.

    To help you make the most of your precious holiday time, we’ve put together our shortlist for the best books, podcasts and videos on emerging tech that you may have missed in 2018.

    BOOKS

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    2062: THE WORLD THAT AI MADE BY TOBY WALSH

    In 2062, Toby Walsh considers the impact AI will have on work, war, politics, economics, everyday human life and, indeed, human death. Will robots become conscious? Will automation take away jobs? Will we become immortal machines ourselves, uploading our brains to the cloud?

    What lies in store for homo digitalis – the people of the not-so-distant future who will be living amongst fully functioning artificial intelligence? In the tradition of Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus, 2062 describes the choices we need to make today to ensure that future remains bright.

    Order here.

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    MADE BY HUMANS: THE AI CONDITION BY ELLEN BROAD

    Artificial intelligence can be all too human: quick to judge, capable of error, vulnerable to bias. It’s made by humans, after all. Humans make decisions about the laws and standards, the tools, the ethics in this new world. Who benefits. Who gets hurt.

    Made by Humans explores our role and responsibilities in automation. Roaming from Australia to the UK and the US, elite data expert Ellen Broad talks to world leaders in AI about what we need to do next. It is a personal, thought-provoking examination of humans as data and humans as the designers of systems that are meant to help us. 

    Order now.

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    ELON MUSK: TESLA, SPACEX AND THE QUEST FOR A FANTASTIC FUTURE BY ASHLEE VANCE

    Elon Musk spotlights the technology and vision of Elon Musk, the renowned entrepreneur and innovator behind SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity, who sold one of his Internet companies, PayPal, for $1.5 billion. Ashlee Vance captures the full spectacle and arc of the genius's life and work, from his tumultuous upbringing in South Africa and flight to the United States to his dramatic technical innovations and entrepreneurial pursuits.

    Vance uses Musk's story to explore one of the pressing questions of our age: can the nation of inventors and creators who led the modern world for a century still compete in an age of fierce global competition?

    Order now.

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    BAD BLOOD: SECRETS AND LIES IN A SILICON VALLEY STARTUP BY JOHN CARREYROU

    One of Bill Gates' "5 Books I Loved in 2018".

    In 2014, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the female Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup 'unicorn' promised to revolutionise the medical industry with a machine that would make blood tests significantly faster and easier. 

    Backed by investors such as Larry Ellison and Tim Draper, Theranos sold shares in a fundraising round that valued the company at $9 billion, putting Holmes's worth at an estimated $4.7 billion. There was just one problem: the technology didn't work. 

    For years, Holmes had been misleading investors, FDA officials, and her own employees. John Carreyrou tells the story of Theranos, and encourages us to consider the possible repercussions of our blind faith in a small group of brilliant individuals. 

    Order now.

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    MACHINE, PLATFORM, CROWD: HARNESSING OUR DIGITAL FUTURE BY ANDREW MCAFEE & ERIK BRYNJOLFSSON

    From the authors of the best-selling The Second Machine Age, a leader’s guide to success in a rapidly changing economy. 

    Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson know what it takes to master this digital-powered shift: we must rethink the integration of minds and machines, of products and platforms, and of the core and the crowd. The balance now favours the second element of the pair, with massive implications for how we run our companies and live our lives. McAfee and Brynjolfsson deliver a penetrating analysis of a new world and a toolkit for thriving in it.

    Order now.

    PODCASTS

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    TED TALKS TECHNOLOGY

    Some of the world's leading inventors and researchers share demos, breakthroughs and visions onstage at the TED conference, TEDx events and partner events around the world.

    Listen here.

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    WITHOUT FAIL

    Candid conversations with people who have done hard things: what worked, what didn't and why. Hosted by Alex Blumberg.

    Listen here.

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    AI AUSTRALIA

    Hosted by Churchill Club panelists, James Wilson and Nigel Dalton. In-depth conversations with technology leaders, academics, and AI professionals about all things artificial intelligence. They explore a broad range of topics including AI strategy, technology and ethics providing valuable insights for Australian businesses at all stages of AI adoption.

    Listen here.

    VIDEOS

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    AI is massively transforming our world, but there's one thing it cannot do: love. In a visionary talk, computer scientist Kai-Fu Lee details how the US and China are driving a deep learning revolution -- and shares a blueprint for how humans can thrive in the age of AI by harnessing compassion and creativity.

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    Once your smart devices can talk to you, who else are they talking to? Kashmir Hill and Surya Mattu wanted to find out -- so they outfitted Hill's apartment with 18 different internet-connected devices and built a special router to track how often they contacted their servers and see what they were reporting back.


  • 10 Dec 2018 14:19 | Anonymous


    ‘The Good Place’ is a half hour sitcom about four people that have died and think they’ve made it to ‘the good place’ only to discover that (*spoiler alert*) they have not.  In one scene, one of the four - Chidi, a professor of moral philosophy and ethics - is explaining the trolleyproblem.  This century-plus-old thought experiment requires individuals to choose between two terrible outcomes - kill one, or kill five.

    Beneath the light-touch sitcom antics is a very relevant, modern but arguably timeless question - when choosing between the lesser of two evils, how do we choose? And, what should be the consequences of those choices?

    Answering such a question requires a framework of principals, morals and ethics. In our last event for 2018, we looked at what frameworks were being applied to emerging technologies and what the implications are for failing to integrate critical and ethical thinking.  

    WE EXPLORED:

    • What ethics are

    • The ethical implications of emerging technologies

    • The influence of data

    • The role of government

    • The role of industry

    WITH PANELISTS:

    THE TAKEOUTS

    1. Think of ethics as the ‘should’ questions rather than the credential reasoning of ‘can’.  They allow you to critically assess options, or actions, before you determine the way forward according to your (individual or collective) morals and values.

    2. Emerging technologies are moving out of low-stakes daily scenarios, like predicting what we should watch or buy, and into high-stakes situations like welfare and criminal justice, where they shape society and communities.

    3. Some level of bias is required otherwise algorithms can’t select or decide. Take the machine learning models that power Netflix predictions.

    4. To assess whether bias is ethical we ask if it is FAT – Fair. Accountable. Transparent.

    5. To empower accountability, there needs to be explainability - end users need to understand how algorithms have been build.

    6. Think about the problem you’re solving. Starting with the problem, rather than the technical application, can ensure the solution is accountable.

    7. Emerging technology consultants and developers have a responsibility to inform and guide their clients, ensuring the client understands how the program is developed, what data is used, etc - empowering them in the process.  

    8. Our education system needs to change from its current silo model. Creating more inroads between the two dominant areas of study - Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS) and STEM - may be the key to equipping future generations with the critical skills required to navigate, create and invent ethical technology.   

    9. Start thinking of technology as core business to get the buy-in you need. Reframing tech according to the problem that you’re trying to solve can help you position it as core business e.g. it’s not a ‘tech problem’, it’s a ‘service issue’.

    10. It’s a common myth that machine learning programs continue to learn, but many don’t. Models need to be retrained, and data updated. Regular maintenance should be considered part of the implementation of any technological solution.


  • 24 Oct 2018 14:20 | Anonymous


    Have you heard of the ‘Great Horse Manure Crisis’?  

    In London in the late 1800’s, there were over 50,00 horses transporting people around the city by cab, bus and personal cart.  Each horse produced between 15 and 35 pounds of manure and around two pints of urine per day, and had a life expectancy of only three years. They created a massive public health and safety issue - streets were obscured, and huge numbers of flies swarmed, spreading diseases like typhoid fever.

    In 1894, The Times predicted every street in London would be buried under nine feet of manure within 50 years. In 1898 the manure crisis was debated at the world’s first international urban planning conference in New York (a city facing the same issue), and the problem seemed as insurmountable as piles of manure swallowed the streets.

    No one could have predicted that by 1912, this great crisis would be entirely resolved, or that someone in 2018 would be using it as an introduction for how emerging technology can change a conversation, city, country, and the world entirely.  The technology that solved the problem? Motorised vehicles.

    As congestion and travel time increase, the adverse impact on health is investigated, and climate change becomes visible, we explored if the next evolutions of motorised vehicles - connected, automated, and zero emissions - could provide the solutions to our new(ish), insurmountable (?), urban problems.  

    WE DISCUSSED:

    • The findings of Infrastructure Victoria’s newly release report, Advice on automated and zero emissions infrastructure

    • Pilot programs currently being trialled in Victoria, including AIMES

    • The infrastructure and solutions needed to support development

    • Predictions for how and when new technologies will reach the road

    • The implications for automated and connected vehicles outside of personal transport

    WITH PANELISTS:

    • Dr Allison Stewart - Project Director, Automates and Zero Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Advice, Infrastructure Victoria

    • Majid Sarvi - Professor in Transport for Smart Cities, AIMES Founding Director, University of Melbourne

    • Paul Kubat - Independent Consultant, former Smart City Lead at Singtel-Optus

    • Mark Harland - former Executive Director Marketing at GM International

    THE TAKEOUTS

    1. Connected and autonomous vehicles could have a huge impact on congestion, travel time, greenhouse gas emissions and road safety. 

    2. They could also increase our energy usage and increase congestion in areas like the CBD. 

    3. While new infrastructure may not need to be developed right away, current infrastructure - like roads and the cellular network - will need to be upgraded to support connected and autonomous vehicles. 

    4. Public transport is still an important feature of any transport future scenario. 

    5. Integration and connectivity between individual autonomous vehicles, fleets, public transport, pedestrians and cyclists are crucial in improving the flow of transportation and movement of people in order to achieve the key benefits. 

    6. Cultural approaches to car ownership could change in an automated future. 

    7. Insurance companies and car companies will need to rethink their brands, roles, and business models. 

    8. Melbourne is home to a world-first laboratory, modelled on it's streets and established to test highly integrated transport technology (AIMES) 

    9. Autonomous vehicles are already being tested around the world, in places like Singapore and Arizona. 

    10. Autonomous buses could be seen in Melbourne as soon as 2020 and taxis before 2025.


  • 26 Sep 2018 14:21 | Anonymous


    Sold out with more than 180 registrations and a priceless buzz in the air… Not bad for our Australian premiere of Silicon Valley’s Top Tech Trends Debate, right?

    With major thanks to PwC and the Victorian Digital Innovation Festival – as well as Avion Communications, Burninghouse, Norgate McLean Dolphin and Studio Worldwide – the Churchill Club is pleased to report the Top Tech Trends Debate was a huge success. (A special mention also needs to be given to our exceptional moderator, Nina Muhleisen, who steered insightful conversation throughout the evening!)

    In case you missed it or you’d like to share what you learned with friends, here’s the lowdown on what was covered that night.

    TECH TREND 1: TECH WILL SAVE US FROM TECH

    By Ryan Ebert 

    Named twice in Australia’s top 30 Entrepreneurs under 30, Ryan is the Director and co-founder of PHW Group – a national occupational physiotherapy, workplace training and office design company dedicated to creating healthier and more productive workplaces. So, it makes sense that Ryan has a keen eye for how tech impacts real-world human interaction and behaviour. Arguing “tech will save us from tech”, Ryan believes machine learning and wearables will help us build healthier and more sustainable relationships with our devices. This trend presents itself as a very comforting idea, in particular in this age where we feel our devices are, in fact, controlling us.

    TECH TREND 2: DRIVERLESS CARS AS A SERVICE

    By Paul Higgins

    Paul is a Futurist with Emergent Futures and on the Board of the Future Business Council. He writes and presents regularly on future disruptions to business models and consults to a range of organisations on planning for the future. Paul believes that in the next three to five years, “driverless cars as a service” will take centre stage. This trend will bring about the end of personal motor vehicle ownership, and the death of car dealerships. Time will tell if his prediction is right. If you’d like to find out more, Paul is currently co-authoring a book on the future of driverless vehicles entitled Is Driverless Always More? – How driverless vehicles will transform our economies and our societies.

    TECH TREND 3: POST-IOT – PERVASIVE COMPUTER ENVIRONMENTS

    By Bec Martin

    Bec is an emerging technology enthusiast, a tinkerer and lifelong learner working at the intersection of government, startups and technology. Most recently, she was an adviser for the Victorian Minister for Innovation and the Digital Economy. She says much has been made of the promise of the Internet of Things (IOT) over the last decade. A strategic thinker, Bec believes the next big thing will be pervasive computer environments that interact with (and respond appropriately to) human environments. This trend is a push away from humans controlling interaction with (and responding to) IOT devices. “Ambient intelligence” – intuitive, integrated products and services that predict and respond to our needs – will soon be ubiquitous.

    TECH TREND 4: THE RISE OF DIASPORIC ECOSYSTEMS

    By Bienna Chow

    Bienna is an international strategist specialising in innovation and investments, combining experience from multinational corporations, high-tech startups and venture capital across a broad range of industries. With a strong understanding of global markets, she believes the trend that will have the most impact in the next three to five years is “the rise of diasporic ecosystems”. She says global mobility, migration and technology are rapidly changing our social landscapes. For example, think of the Chinese equivalents to Uber Eats that operate a tight ship catering to Chinese residents here in Australia, right under our nose. International technology and information transfer along same ethnic connections have always existed, but companies such as these are now rapidly building local ecosystems outside their home countries and creating business expansion opportunities. 

    TECH TREND 5: THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION

    By Kee Wong

    Kee Wong is an entrepreneur with an impressive string of titles including Immediate Past Chairman of the Board of the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), Deputy Chairman of Asialink and member of the Board of Directors for the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD). Knowledgeable in all things engineering, IT and business, Kee argued the biggest trend coming our way is “the future of education”. He believes that Australia's Higher Education Industry – which is the third largest export revenue for Australia and the highest export revenue for the State of Victoria – is under threat to being disrupted. What’s interesting is that it won’t be by other groups of universities, but by online platform players like Amazon et al. Watch this space…

    And the winner is… Kee Wong!

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    The interactive element of the evening – where audience members vote on the spot via www.pollEV.com – is part of what makes this event so unique.


    " data-provider-name="YouTube" id="yui_3_17_2_1_1554088610096_195" style="position: absolute; top: 0px; left: 0px; width: 700px; height: 393.438px;"> The interactive element of the evening – where audience members vote on the spot via www.pollEV.com – is part of what makes this event so unique.

    Congratulations goes to Kee Wong for his prediction about the future of education. He takes home the award this year… Who (and what trend) will be next? Sign up to our mailing list to stay informed about the Top Tech Trends Debate in 2019. We can’t wait to host it again next year.


  • 12 Sep 2018 14:23 | Anonymous


    Over the past few years, I’ve developed a very strong interest in AI. Unfortunately, despite talking to many industry experts, I’ve always felt a missing link between the IT lab and the real world. However, after attending the 2018 Digital AI Summit – a headlining event at the Victorian Digital Innovation Festival – it was clearer to me how much closer we are to closing that gap.  

    Here are 3 key takeaways from the event, along with best-practice that’ll help your organisation become AI-ready.

    1.     “DATA IS KING”

    This quote was repeated many times throughout the day. It was a little startling as I’m used to hearing ‘content is king’, but if I look at things with an AI lens, I can see why data takes the cake. You need tons of clean (and accurately labelled) data to train your AI system, otherwise, you’re cooking from a recipe with all the wrong ingredients.

    “It’s not who has the best algorithm who wins, it’s who has the most data.”

    – Andrew Ng, Founder of Google Brain

    What you can do today:

    • Clean existing data

    • Collect more data (from internal and external sources)

    • Segment and tag your as much as possible (i.e. into different categories or types)

     

    2.     THERE’S NO POINT HAVING AI IF YOU’RE NOT COMPELLED TO ACT

    If you want to make magic happen, big data alone is not enough. You need to connect insight with business process. For example, if you use TripAdvisor, it knows:

    • what city you’re in

    • when you’re probably hungry

    • what cafes and restaurants are top-rated by other travellers

    • when to send you a push notification with recommendations nearby.

    Using this as a benchmark, focus your efforts on understanding as much as you can about your customers. Then infuse this data with strategy and systems.

    “Marketing comes down to 3 things: right message, right time, right channel. AI can help you bring those 3 things together much faster.”

     – Rob Wickham, Regional VP, Platform & Emerging Technologies, Salesforce Asia Pacific

    What you can do today:

    • Review customer personas and journey maps to identify opportunities

    • Audit how various teams (i.e. IT and marketing) are sharking knowledge

    • Implement new ideas to turn big data into magic

    3.     HUMANS WILL NEVER BE ABLE COMPETE WITH AI CAPABILITY

    As much as it sparks controversial debate, robots will take over some jobs. But this shouldn’t be doom and gloom. Robots never get tired, and robots are more accurate (when given the right information). For example, robots can literally scan thousands of patient X-rays and identify anomalies in seconds. We should embrace what AI can bring to the workplace because just as the assembly line was a game-changer for factories, AI is a game-changer for roles that involve repetitive tasks.

    “AI is the only way to address cybersecurity threats at scale.”

    – Geoff Swain, Alliances Director for AJP, Crowdstrike

    “The area that will be most interesting in health is digital imaging... AI provides a layer of transparency that helps clinicians review and assess cases quickly.”

    – Dr Priscilla Rogers, Director, Upstart Innovations 

    What you can do today:

    • List mundane tasks or where human error is most likely in your industry

    • Consider how AI can help address these challenges within your organisation

    • Reframe your thinking: how can AI empower me to deliver more value at work?

    If you’d like to see what else I learned at the 2018 Digital AI Summit, check out: 5 things copywriters need to know about AI & conversation design.


  • 5 Sep 2018 14:24 | Anonymous


    Customer centricity has now become an assumption - of course you put your target consumer at the forefront of your activities. This becomes somewhat more complicated in practice however, particularly for an industry that didn’t exist 15 years ago and continues to grow and contort at a staggering pace, and despite brands knowing more about the market than ever before.  

    In what can only be described as a true-marketer approach to some of the more controversial adtech related incidents of recent times, we learned that perhaps data isn’t as scary, or as precious, as we hold it to be, and that the context of humanity and behaviour should always accompany it.

    WE ALSO EXPLORED:

    • Defining adtech and customer centricity

    • The evolution, and sophistication of adtech and the industry

    • The biggest threat to adtech

    • Data management and privacy

    • The future of adtech

    WITH PANELISTS:

    THE TAKEOUTS

    1. Adtech’ broadly refers to digital tools, platforms and analytics used for advertising. It’s technology that delivers the right message, at the right time, to the right audience, and/or reports on how it performed.

    2. It’s mostly data and hyper-consolidation that are shaping the adtech industry of today.

    3. Video, AR and other formats are creating campaigns that are not only visually impressive, but targeted and measured in a way that offline advertising has never truly been able to achieve.

    4. The biggest threat to adtech is that the data is predominantly owned and controlled by three tech giants, creating an oligopoly where they’re essentially able to operate as they please without challenge.

    5. The lack of competitors, transparency, and ineffective regulation has also enabled privacy scandals like Cambridge Analytica.

    6. Emerging technology like blockchain and voice technology will have a huge impact on the way that data is managed and content is presented.

    7. Think two to three campaigns ahead. By building in the relevant data points to what you’re doing now, you can ensure that you become more relevant and personalised to your audience with each campaign.

    8. Consider how to ascertain the emotional and behavioural context around the numbers that your campaign generates, as the insights will inform your messaging and content for the better.

    9. Brands that guide themselves by the principles of relevancy, and ‘just because you can doesn’t mean you should’, give themselves a better chance of ensuring they don’t end up news for the wrong reasons.

    10. Find the connection between the data and the humanity.


  • 15 Jul 2018 14:25 | Anonymous


    On the 18th of June, the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision (funded by the Australian Research Council) released Australia’s first Robotics Roadmap. The document aims to ‘guide how Australia can harness the benefits of the new robot economy’ and it joins a host of other international roadmaps, confirming our march toward the fourth industrial revolution.

    Just four days before, our panel gave us insight into how robots are already working among us, and - with the help of a Star Wars simile - we learned that there’s more to this technology than Terminator, A.I Artificial Intelligence, or even Wall-E would have us believe...  

    WE EXPLORED:

    • What Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is and how it works

    • How and where physical robots are used

    • The limitations of robotics

    • How RPA works alongside of Natural Language Processing (NLP)

    • Tips for determining the best applications of robotics and how to educate your workforce

    • The impact of robotics on the workforce

    WITH PANELISTS:

    • Annie Hariharan, Senior Manager, PwC

    • Leigh Pullen, Executive Director, CiGen

    • Nicci Rossouw, CEO, Exaptec

    THE TAKEOUTS

    1. RPA is software that is robot-like; programmed to complete standardised processes that were once completed manually by a human (often times the ‘grunt work’). These robots are wholly task-based.

    2. Telepresence robots are iPad’s attached to a stick, controlled by a human in another location through an application that allows them to drive the bot, be seen and communicate via the hardware. Service bots are an extension of telepresence incorporating more apps and capabilities, while companion bots include the ability to speak several languages and perform both physical and digital tasks.

    3. The key features of physical bots and RPAs have obvious applications across a wide range of sectors, but in Australia the uptake has been slow

    4. At its core, RPA is fast, efficient and accurate. It is prime for processes that are simple and standard.

    5. Robots cannot truly take the place of humans in all roles and responsibilities (at this point in time), because they are not truly artificially intelligent - they cannot (as C-3P0 does) understand context, infer, or derive meaning.

    6. The greatest impact RPA will have will be on entry-level, or low-skilled, positions. These are the kinds of roles that teach us how to work, and how to do our jobs, to eventually move up the chain.

    7. Headcount reduction, or cost-play, are not a compelling enough reasons to implement robotics.

    8. The most culturally-successful introductions of bots occur when organisations are transparent with, and educate their workforce during integration.

    9. Risk in RPA is inherited from the programmer, or those designing the work flow. To minimise potential risks, approach managing a bot as you would any other employee by restricting access and enforcing data purging.

    10. Robotics will continue to evolve with the integration of NLP and machine learning.

    Image credit: IBM THINKLab Aging in Place Environment: Softbank Pepper Robots


  • 4 Jun 2018 14:26 | Anonymous


    Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have proved that they have the potential to change the way businesses use technology. Imagine the impact of being able to combine the two – being able to effectively merge the real and digital worlds.

    Enter mixed reality (MR), technology that combines the virtual environment with the real world. Experienced via a head-mounted wearable display, users gain a real-time view of actual surroundings combined with an overlay of intelligent virtual objects that allows for new interactions through gesture and voice.

    WE EXPLORED:

    • What is mixed reality?

    • What are the enterprise and consumer applications?

    • What are the current limitations and challenges of the technology?

    • How are mixed reality applications being used to improve the workplace?

    • Is mixed reality ethically neutral?

    WITH PANELLISTS

    THE TAKEOUTS

    1. MR is where AR, VR and the IoT collide or intersect. It involves taking digital objects – visualisations, virtualisations – and brings them into the physical world, giving digital objects physical characteristics.

    2. MR is less obtrusive than VR as it allows its users to interact with tangible objects in a real environment, utilising overlaid augmented, digital content to create realistic scenarios.

    3. Some analysts predict the value of the virtual market will be worth US$28 billion by 2020.

    4. Consumer-facing applications for MR are limited. With more universally appealing content needed, immersive narrative-based storytelling has been flagged as an area that will likely lead to more users.

    5. Enterprise applications of MR are being developed across many industries exploring use cases and pilot applications. Applications of MR for training and data visualization are proving to be game-changing.

    6. Training and testing scenarios can be run in the digital world, creating a realistic digital copy of a set of circumstance that couldn’t otherwise be safely replicated, are costly to administer or not a true reflection of what a trainee will experience in the field.

    7. MR is a game changer for data visualisation because it allows data to be more easily perceived, manipulated and interacted with. Situated analytics has applications for workplaces where workers may not have their hands free and need to access information quickly.

    8. MR is hamstrung by current hardware. This includes uncomfortable headsets, being tethered and latency.

    9. Current price point for headsets like the Microsoft HoloLens is hindering mass market appeal, keeping consumer level adoption and usage rates low.

    10. A unique challenge is how children will interpret MR scenarios. With real environments colliding with virtual environments, there is the very real potential for children to have difficulty distinguishing between the real and virtual.

    Image credit: Lucas Giolito tries out virtual reality by Arturo Pardavila III


  • 21 May 2018 14:26 | Anonymous


    The risk of a bad user experience in voice is higher than for screen.  Unless you invest more in a custom solution through a smaller company, then you need to work within the limitations of Echo and Google Home.  The tolerance for a bad experience is also much lower for voice users - they are likely to be less familiar with voice than they are with screen, but also expect it to be the quicker, easier option, making your window for success smaller.

    To give your skill the best chance of succeeding, be sure to do the following -

    USE NATURAL LANGUAGE - WRITE FOR CONVERSATION, AND EMBRACE LONG-FORM

    While some might bark orders at their phone, the best experience is one that feels conversational. To create that you need to use copywriters, and you need to do your research. Look into any forums related to your industry and observe how your audience are using language.

    This also has implications for SEO, which is now rewarding natural language and longer-form content.

    DETERMINE EVERY POSSIBLE ITERATION OF YOUR SKILL REQUEST, DEVELOP A RESPONSE TO MATCH

    Did you know there are over 40,000 ways to request a flight? They include airlines, times, days, locations, and then mannerisms and phrasings for each combination.  You need to identify each of the iterations for your skill, and develop responses to match. Nothing turns a user off quicker than, ‘Sorry, something went wrong. Please repeat your request.’   

    ...BUT ALSO TRY TO DO SOME OF THINKING

    It is a monstrous, and largely manual task identifying the thousands, and thousands, and thousands, and thousands, of different ways different people can ask the same question, so chances are high you may miss one or two.  Create shortcuts that allow your skill to fill in the blanks, rather that failing to progress unless it has a 100% match to something it recognises. 

    You can do this through account-linking and assumptions.  Account-linking may help to pull in some of the users basic data - full name, birth date etc - without having to ask too many follow-up questions.  These follow-ups can make the experience feel more like a phone conversation and the point-of-difference (convenience) is lost.

    Assumptions can be built in to the AI engine to assist the skill.  For example; if a user asks for session times for a movie but does not state the day, you can assume it is for that day and respond with those times, rather than asking.

    DON’T USE GOOGLE TRANSLATE

    The nuances of language and translation are a key challenge to taking a skill to audiences in different countries, with different languages.  To capture these, it is best to employ a team on the ground in each of the countries you wish to target - translation is not a simple conversion.

    USE YOUR MANNERS  

    The unique freedom that comes from interacting with a screen, rather than a person, is why we have keyboard warriors. The same can apply to voice interactions.  It’s important to include polite responses as part of your output not only for these users, but for older generations who will speak to technology as if they were a person sitting across from them. Programming greetings, ‘thank yous’ and ‘pleases’ will help to personalise the experience for your audience.

    AVOID A BRANDED VOICE, FOR NOW

    For around fifty thousand dollars, brands can get their own ‘voice’.  There are benefits to having your own - it can mirror your brand more closely, and appeal to your specific audience.  However, because of the limitations on the technology the risks of errors, and a bad experience, are high and you may find that the voice you have invested in, becomes associated with failure. So for now, let Alexa take the heat.   

    REMEMBER THAT YOU’RE CATERING TO DIFFERENT SENSES AND SKILLS

    Voice is a whole new experience compared to screen, using entirely different human skills and senses - speech and hearing, rather than sight.  Just as you can’t directly translate into another language without consulting cultural norms and mannerism, you can’t do a direct translation of your screen content to voice.  Imagine trying to maintain the attention of your user while Alexa reads out a full web page? Consider the best applications of voice for your users needs and develop an experience tailored to help fulfil and achieve these.

    These tips came from our recent event, Utilising Voice Technologies: Why type when you can talk. 

    Photo by Andres Urena on Unsplash


  • 6 Apr 2018 14:28 | Anonymous


    Hooray! We’re pleased to announce that the Churchill Club has now transformed from a company structure into a not-for-profit. That means we can continue to assist those in emerging technologies – whether they be researching or developing, implementing into business, funding or regulating them – without a focus on commercial imperatives.

    BUT HASN’T THE CHURCHILL CLUB ALWAYS BEEN A NOT-FOR-PROFIT?

    Actually, no. Until now, it’s been structured as a company and run as a social venture. However, seeing us as a not-for-profit is an easy misconception to make given that we have always strived to be impartial and transparent, and act in the best interests of all advancing emerging technologies in Victoria.

    HOW WILL THE CHANGE IMPACT HOW THE CHURCHILL CLUB OPERATES?

    The Churchill Club will now have more opportunities to access funds. In the past, we have solely relied on funding from memberships, ticket sales and appropriate corporate partnerships to cover its expenses. Now, we are delighted to be eligible for a wider range of government grants and to have opened the door to a wider range of sponsors.

    WHAT DOES THIS CHANGE MEAN TO ME?

    Firstly, nothing but good.  Not-for-profit status means more members to connect with and being able to partner with government for bigger and better events.

    Secondly, we will continue to improve the quality of our events – and where possible, host special occasions. This year, we are thrilled to announce that the Churchill Club will be hosting a ‘Top Tech Trends 2018 Debate Dinner’ as part of the Victorian government’s Digital Innovation Festival, 6 September.

    Lastly (but not least), members now have the ability to play a greater role in how the club is run. You are invited to our AGM, and we encourage everyone to contribute. We will take feedback and suggestions seriously.

    CEO of the Churchill Club, Bec Kempster, says, “We recognise that Victoria needs a voice that represents all players in emerging technologies – regardless of their business maturity, or the industry they operate in. There’s a number of shared challenges that arise in relation to emerging tech including commercialisation, managing data security and privacy and overcoming user skepticism, through to funding and talent acquisition and retention. These aren’t just Start-up challenges, but are faced by all businesses. By facilitating conversations and sharing experiences we can seek to collectively address these challenges and improve the outcomes delivered from these technologies.”

    2018 marks an exciting year for the Churchill Club; we are committed to investing time and energy into accelerating industry like never before. If you are not a member of the Churchill Club and would like to be (or you would like to renew your membership), please visit our memberships page.




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