Spring is here!

Spring is my absolute favorite season. It always feels like change is in the air and who doesn't love that extra hour of daylight? It also happens to coincide with the annual South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, TX. There's so much that happens during those 5 days that it usually takes me a day or three to distill the good information. There are so many topics to cover but today I will just focus on one - IBM.

IBM


Every year IBM sets up a studio. Last year it was called the "IBM Cognitive Studio" and this year it was the "IBM Experience Studio". I've had a slight "love affair" with all thing VR since I tried the modern version out last year in Austin (I say the modern version because in the 90s our local mall had a "VR" setup that consisted of a "safety ring" and a giant helmet. Once inside the "reality" I was able to take a few steps on a checkerboard surface before the whole thing froze one me - I digress).

Last year IBM introduced their robot "Pepper" who runs on IBM Watson and is manufactured by Softbank Robotics. Pepper is capable or reading human emotions and reacting to them. He is being used to greet retail customers in Japan and cheer up patients in a Norwegian hospital. 

 Here's Pepper in action 

Here's Pepper in action 

Sadly, I didn't see many robots in the "IBM Experience" this year (except for this little guy)

 This is the only "Watson" robot I saw this year - I didn't take the time to understand how it works. Anyone?

This is the only "Watson" robot I saw this year - I didn't take the time to understand how it works. Anyone?

 My favorite VR experience was at the IBM house.  It uses a Watson voice powered SDK powered by Unity. I was transported into a "make believe land" where I could use the controller to "teleport" around. I said "make me a house" and BAM a house appeared. I could pick the house up, move it around and even throw it into the distance. I decided to leave the house upside down (much to the amusement of those watching me, since they could see my every move on a giant monitor). I said "make me a dragon" and a dragon appeared. I could walked around the dragon. I "teleported" to another area and said "make me some cubes" and I started to build a tower. 

IBM also has a display The “internet of caring things” and the “cognitive study of elderly care”. I had a conversation with “Watson” who assessed my personality type (I’m a Dynamo by the way — and I have the t-shirt to prove it).