The 4 highlights of SuperNova 2018

The 4 highlights of SuperNova 2018

SuperNova 2018 highlights

In our previous blog post we explained how icapps stays on top of its innovation game and how we incorporate new emerging technologies in our business model. In that blog we identified what we at icapps see as the three main topics of the future: Augmented Reality (AR), conversational interfaces and Artificial Intelligence (AI). We constantly try to remain at the forefront of these technologies, because we strongly believe these topics will gain traction in the future.

Embrace the future, because tomorrow is unstoppable”, was SuperNova’s main slogan. It’s no surprise then that we immediately felt at home at the event. What’s more, our hot innovation topics AI, AR and conversational interfaces were very much present in the many keynote talks.

Relax, we are not going to give you a summary of more than 16 hours of talks. But we do want to talk about the four highlights of SuperNova 2018 which are relevant to our innovation tracks at icapps.

1. Dr. Vivienne Ming’s perky perspective on AI

‘One of the 10 women to watch in tech’ ,according to American magazine Inc., Vivienne Ming uses technology to improve lives. She not only co-founded Socos (where she blends machine learning, neuroscience and economics), in her spare time Vivienne also experiments with Google Glass to get live health updates from her son with diabetes.

At the SuperNova conference, Dr. Ming explains her view on AI. In her opinion there are two ways to approach AI: to replace people, because it’s cost-effective, or to improve people. Although society is very busy following the first path, Vivienne campaigns for the second. She likes to talk about Augmented Intelligence, whereby human potential combines the best of machines.

SuperNova 2018 highlights Vivienne Ming

As a tech company we can relate to many of the insights we've heard in Vivienne’s keynote. For example, at icapps we share “we want to use technology to enrich daily life” as our vision statement. We are not looking for technologies to make things cheaper for our customers, but we focus on how the right technology can provide them (and/or their customers) with added value on a daily basis.

Using live emotion detection for autistic children to connect to the world, helping orphaned refugees to find lost relatives in 1 million pictures in only 3-5 minutes using AI… These are just a few examples of the opportunities of AI that are already possible right now. Ming stressed that AI is not a magical solution though, but if you know how to solve a problem it’s a uniquely powerful tool. That is why, at icapps, our innovation tracks focus on the right implementation of AI capabilities, after we’ve determined the areas where it can be a solution for a client's problem.   

2. The opposite of play isn’t work, it’s depression

SuperNova 2018 highlights Vivienne Ming

“The brain areas that are stimulated while playing, are the ones that are under-stimulated when depressed,” explained Jane McGonigal at day two of the conference. That is why the opposite of play isn’t work, it’s depression. As a famous game designer and one of the world’s top innovators, Jane knows the power of playing games when it comes to innovation.

Too often people are not thinking creatively enough about how the future might be different. Therefore Jane helps people level up their power of imagination, by teaching to play games that help unsticking the mind when thinking about the future and when looking for ways to innovate. McGonigal focuses on creating games that bring out the best in our humanity and that establish new ways of problem-solving. As automation of work will increase the following years, Jane believes our future will be a return to the past: more play and more time to be creative. If not: the world risks falling into a long period of post-traumatic innovation in which our imagination is limited to solving the problems of the past instead of preventing the problems of the future. The Ethical OS Toolkit is one example of a ‘game’ to anticipate the future impact of today’s technology. (Or: how not to regret the things you build.)

From Jane’s presentation we learned that we cannot underestimate the influence creativity and a playful mind have on our technological solutions in the future. There is a reason why at icapps we call our innovation LAB “the playground” in which we look at a technology’s possibilities in the broadest possible sense.

3. What we get wrong about technology

As a digital company it is very important that we think of the consequences of our innovative solutions, whatever their price might be. At icapps, we always pay attention to what the implementation of technology means to us and to our stakeholders. A good thing, according to behavioural economist Tim Harford...

By writing his new book ‘Fifty Things That Made the Modern Economy’, Harford learned a lot about technology. About how it affects the economy and our society and about the things we get wrong about it. Harford is telling us not to fixate on the idea of the next technological miracle, but to understand how humble, cheap inventions have shaped the world of today. He suggest that we should be paying as much attention to the cheapest technologies as to the most sophisticated. He calls this the “Toilet paper principle”: once a technology is cheap enough to wipe your bottom with, it can revolutionize the world.

Toilet paper Tim Harford

He also stressed that we often overlook the impact of technology on society. He told us he wasn’t afraid of a HAL 9000-like A.I. overlord. Instead, he fears ‘Jennifer’, a simple and inexpensive voice-directed application packaged as an earpiece. Jennifer tells warehouse workers what to do: ‘she’ is the thinker, while the human is the mindless doer. Tim sees Jennifer as he sees toilet paper: inexpensive, easy to overlook and having impact. The trap: Jennifer replaces the human brain and is disempowering people. What Harford is saying is that technology can be deceiving, because we are more afraid of expensive super robots than we are of cheap technology like ‘Jennifer’. Food for thought...

4. Designing UI will look very differently in the future

We were very pleased to hear that Biz Stone, one of the co-founders of Twitter, shares a lot of our innovation visions. We are investigating the potential of conversational interfaces and how they will evolve over time. In this respect, we found it very interesting that Stone believes we will evolve into an 'analogue-looking world' in which conversational interactions with digital applications are very common.

Conversational interfaces will evolve from visually controlled applications (like chatbots within Facebook messenger) to completely voice-driven solutions, because it resembles a ‘normal’ conversation most closely. Designing voice controlled interfaces is very different from visual interface design. When it comes to/in the case of voice UI, users expect interaction to feel like real-life communication , rather than like they are talking to technology. For example, on a visual UI users can clearly see the available options. With Voice UI, however, presenting these options in a convenient way may be challenging. As a designer it is important to understand how these kind of conversations can be “designed” properly in order not to confuse the user.

Because we expect that UI will evolve more and more in the direction of  voice interfaces, it is obvious that our design journeys will look differently in the future. But we cannot wait for the challenges these will bring!


We think, SuperNova 2018 was a successful edition. We were very pleased to hear the many ideas in line with our innovation track. A year from now, technology will have evolved further, so we are very curious what the hot topics at SuperNova 2019 will be.

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