WàQ, Web @ Québec
Have you ever heard of WàQ? No? Well, keep reading and by the end of this article, you’ll probably realize that it does ring a bell.
WàQ stands for Web à Québec. It is a 3-day event dedicated to all things Web and related technologies. This year, it was held from April 4 to 6, with 1,200 participants and 83 presenters. The thing that sets this event apart is that it is the largest French-language event in its field in the Americas! Another interesting feature is that the presentations target all types of audiences, from developers to designers to marketing people, to those who are just there for the epic happy hours!
The basic concept is simple: every day features two plenaries for everyone; the speakers are usually “big shots” in their field, for example Microsoft lead developer and evangelist Mat Velloso, who spoke about the latest trends in bots. The rest of the time is filled with multiple parallel sessions, which require some heartbreaking choices! Should I attend a session on UI and UX best practices for the HoloLens? Or deepen my knowledge on “deep learning” in small-scale development projects? All too often, I would have liked to be in two places at once. But hey, that’s mission impossible!
The yearly WàQ conference, first held in 2012, has always been my favourite: fun people and fun times in the heart of the Old Port of beautiful Quebec City, as I update my knowledge in a field I’m passionate about! For example, in 2014, “big data” was the buzzword: data collection from users, wearables, sensors… it was all about data. But at the time, humans were compiling and mining the data. In 2017, bots will do this for us, and do it better! Artificial intelligence was the big thing at this year’s WàQ. Granted, we’re not talking science-fiction movie robots, but rather software systems that no longer require human intervention to collect, analyze and execute; code that can learn and adjust independently; robots that can diagnose, make recommendations, predict future events and implement processes.
I admit that, as a QA interface designer, I have feared for the future of my job, as interfaces lose their importance in our daily lives. Systems will be able to figure out what we want without us telling them, obviating the need for complex interfaces. And the more numerous the interfaces, the higher the chances of bad user experience. I learned that graphic interfaces just can’t be everything for everyone: oral or written communication will become the best way to communicate our needs to a system. However, I think that when it comes to content exploration and entertainment, UI can enhance our experience. Just look at two starkly different “chatbot” experiences: CNN’s, which is disastrous, and H&M’s, which is a hit. In fact, I think that the future of sales is chatbots. After all, what is a sale but a conversation, or a rapport? Interfaces can hardly replace discussions, given that they aim to offer every possible scenario to every possible user. Direct conversation allows you to eliminate the options that don’t apply to individual users, providing a highly personalized service.
The following is a random list of things that came to my attention at the conference:
- Stores with artificial intelligence and facial recognition of shoppers, by Montreal company Element AI.
- Sugru, a company that created a community of users around its products.
- Automated learning techniques to identify languages, by our colleague Joel Lord.
- Opquast, a European company that developed a Web and accessibility best-practice knowledge certification process.
- Microsoft’s Tay bot, which had a hard time. And Murphy, a robot that creates images in answer to questions like: “What if Beethoven were a rock star?”
- Rethinking the need for interfaces in our projects, with the book The Best Interface is No Interface, by Golden Krishna.
- The general trend towards renting rather than purchasing services.
- Captcha data collection for autonomous vehicles.
- Adobe Sensei, Concept Canvas, Autodesk’s Dreamcatcher project, Amazon’s Kiva robot, the ColorChameleon, Logojoy…
- And so much more!
Now that you know all about WàQ, see you at next year’s conference?