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Four top takeaways from TechweekKC

This blog is part of our series of key emerging media and technology trends our team is watching.

After attending TechweekKC at Union Station in Kansas City, my head was spinning with some big picture ideas. There was a lot of disruptive technology on display that will fundamentally change not only the way brands and consumers relate to each other, but how our society operates. Here are four things that made the biggest impression on me:

1. Artificial intelligence that can map human emotions is a real thing. Now the challenge lies in automating the process, doing it at scale (for insight and analytics), and utilizing realtime measurement and adjustment.

Affectiva has developed this technology and can map human emotions from moment to moment (frame by frame) with 50 billion+ emotion points. In fact, a software development kit for use in personal, open-source projects, and for companies generating less than $1,000,000 in yearly revenue is available for FREE here: affectiva.com/sdk.

Some of the real-world uses for emotion-mapping technology are adaptive learning systems that allow better education outcomes, multiface tech that can capture the mood of a crowd, remote monitors that track health and well-being, and retail kiosk recommendations based on your emotion. Companies already track reactions to their ads from people that watch in their natural environments, rather than some sterile room where the atmosphere or surrounding context might taint reactions. Here’s some video I took of a quick demo:

Of course, there are games currently using this technology to adapt to players’ emotions in realtime. Nevermind is a game that becomes more challenging and surreal if the gamer shows fear. Flinch is a hugely popular staring-game app, and this kind of facial recognition software is used to determine who wins.

2. The ‘Internet of Things’ future will be like The Jetsons – and seem like second nature to us by the year 2020.

Mohamad Nasser, senior director and general manager of IoT and M2M at Sprint says that by 2020, there will be 20 billion devices with connectivity.

The three verticals Sprint sees the most opportunity in and is focused on now are transportation, insurance, and automating business processes for retail. Red tape and network compliance are the only things holding back health connectivity, says Nasser. The technology is already there and there’s already remote monitoring of patients, post-surgery.

He says 20 billion connected devices is an easy number to get to when every streetlight, traffic light, and other kinds of public devices will all have connectivity. That may sound scary from a privacy standpoint, but it illustrates the company’s vision of that future, as seen through the eyes of one family who uses the IoT for virtually everything.

3. With the variety of new technologies available, it’s more possible now than ever for brands to deliver preferred experiences to customers. The hard part is mapping out exactly how that will occur.

QuikTrip, for example, has prioritized what it calls “personal, local, and loyal” with its app. This allows users to find local stores, see menus, receive coupons, and it allows QuikTrip to notify users of gas prices in realtime.

The long-term goal for the brand is for the app to augment and to mirror the QuikTrip experience, making everything more convenient. This includes some kind of mobile-assisted, quicker checkout (to shorten scanning/line time), reward redemption, and the ability for personalized in-store coupons to appear on your device when you step into a QuikTrip. These ideas are all within reach, but there are real loss prevention and security issues to consider.

4. The revolution is upon us. The real question we should be asking is not when or whether the machines will completely replace humans, but how can augmented reality make us better humans?

If multitasking is the art of doing twice as much as you should half as well as you could (as the popular meme suggests), then why not let artificial intelligence help us do this in a more effective way? Efficiency would go through the roof. AI will soon be able to prescribe actions for us before we take them that all but guarantee a greater degree of success.

Chief Product Strategy Officer Stefan Weitz from Radial says humans will generate 4.5 zettabytes of information in 2016. That’s like if everyone on Earth tweeted three times a minute for the next 55,000 years. He talked at length about how everything in the real world is becoming more and more digitized, which means the ability for computers to observe things and add data on top of them is here already.

Take, for example, an app like Shazam, which listens to a music track through your mobile phone, turns the data into 0s and 1s, and gives you an instant readout on the artist, album, label, etc.

In theory, having better data helps us make better decisions. A third-party AI is smarter than you and doesn’t deal in emotion. Imagine a menu that nudges you away from making poor decisions about what to eat!

An augmented reality means putting our putting our cyborg overlords to work for us and with us, suggesting a more fact-based look at the world rather than having us make decisions on rhetoric.

It sounds great to me, but you might want to give me the Voight-Kampff test again after my “augmentation.”

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