Interactions and new interfaces – artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality. These are the main themes of the UX Poland 2017 conference, which took place in Warsaw for the eighth time now. This is the largest event of its kind in Poland – it draws usability specialists and designers from all over the world.
This year’s edition took place in two venues. The workshops were organized on the premises of SWPS and two days of lectures at the event-fair complex at Mińska 65 street. During those three days, guests could participate in 5 workshops, 17 sessions and a discussion panel. The event also covered two networking parties and a large exhibition and entertainment area. Year after year, the conference is clearly growing.
The main subjects for this year were innovation, new interfaces and interaction design. There is no doubt that there is a lot to talk about; the world around us changes every day at an unprecedented pace. Everyday, we deal with devices that even twenty years ago (or less!) were somewhere between science and fiction.
The Internet of Things solutions fill our homes; smart locks, doors, washing machines and kitchen devices. All connected wirelessly, controlled with the help of smartphone applications. Countless gadgets and services that help us in our day-to-day activities flood our reality. We live by technology, we dress with it, we live in the middle of it, and in our pockets, we carry devices with access essentially to every piece of knowledge out there. And I have the feeling that by writing this, I repeat the obvious.
As designers, who are contributing to this new world, we face not only great challenges, but also with a great deal of responsibility. By the way, this was the theme of last year’s UX Poland. Alan Cooper (co-founder of Cooper, a design and consulting studio) referred well to that in one of the best lectures at the conference. In his keynote speech, he shared with us the fruits of his many years of experience, reminded us not to be afraid to ask even the most difficult questions before taking the next steps forward. He advised us not to underestimate the consequences of what we create. Solving the problem in one place can bring a great damage somewhere else.
Before Alan Cooper set the bar high for the rest of the speakers, the conference had started with a workshop day. I participated in “Designing in the age of innovation” organized by Monica Samsel and Natalia Maciejowska from Salesforce. Despite the small technical false start (cables, wifi, adapters…), I think I really got myself in a good place. Participants had the opportunity to take part in group exercises that resulted in at least some interesting ideas for improving courier services, low cost airlines and community organizations. The workshop was planned to last three hours, but the commitment of all people involved stretched them to nearly two more. Big thanks to Monica and Natalia for allowing longer discussions and group work despite the time passing.
The session days were filled with a lot of knowledge, experience and inspiration. The event organizers have invited some fascinating figures in the design world and beyond. Besides Alan, I will remember three lectures especially. One of them was given by Cooper’s protege, Nate Clinton. In his presentation “Conversations with Machines”, he has taken on an interesting subject about interfaces based on natural language. He argued that people had needed them for a long time and that this was truly the “next big thing”. At the end he reflected the most basic way in which we interact with the world around us; We have already mastered the touch interfaces, natural language should be next.
The first day was closed by Matthew Luhns speech “The power of story”, which was slightly off from the main subject of the conference. Matthew, an animator and screenwriter working at Pixar, just apparently only gave us some funny, touching or just fascinating anecdotes from his career. But in fact, he showed us how great the power of story is and how to build it. Examples included not only Pixar films, but also product presentations by Steve Jobs. Matthew has a lot in common with him by the way – both are great speakers.
From the last day, I remembered mostly Avi Itzkovitch talk “Is ‘smart’ dumb? A look to the era of ‘smart’ things and how design can save the world”. In his very dynamic speech, he focused on the absurdities of the Internet of Things which become a pretext for creating ridiculous products. They not only won’t make any life easier, but will probably make it harder. Avi did joke about some of them, criticized them a little, but first of all, he proved that technology is not everything and stuffing it in every corner of our life is not a solution to every problem.
After last year’s organization at the Nicolaus Copernicus Science Center, I did worry a little if the quality of the conference’s venue would keep up to the quality. Fortunately, I think that the organizers did a great job. The M65 space is definitely bigger and it has been a positive experience.
On the minus side, I would only classify the sound-proof of the lecture space. Sometimes the noise of conversations and the sounds of technical workers outside of it were quite distracting. Unfortunately, the audience was cut off only by a curtains from the exhibition-networking area, In addition, during some speeches the sound system was a bit off. Especially if the speaker used a microphone attached to his clothes, sometimes the mic did not collect all the voice and, as a result, I missed some of the information. Did you have a similar experience?
Having said that, just like the last year, I came back from UX Poland with a lot of positive energy and a ton of inspiration. I have no doubt that it was worth going to Warsaw for this three-day event. This is one of the best conferences of its kind in Europe and I am very glad that it takes place in Poland. I’m looking forward to the next edition. See you in 2018!