RE.WORK Future Technology Summit 2015 – a meeting of experts in the Internet of Things, smart materials, 3D-printing, wearables, robotics and AI

David McClelland introduces CuteCircuit at RE.WORK Future Technology Summit 2015

Compere David McClelland introduces CuteCircuit Image by RD Media

The driving purpose behind the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering is to celebrate engineering and to inspire the next generation to unlock ideas and applications that will shape humanity’s better future. Imagine our excitement when we received tickets to the RE.WORK Future Technology Summit: a gathering of expert speakers, dedicated to improving our businesses, homes and cities with exciting new technologies and engineering projects.

Taking place in London, the two-day summit connected a rapt audience with a diverse range of speakers from industry and academia. Day one began with a literal home run – addressing the wide range of potential applications for technology and data in our homes and the cities in which we live. Some highlights included UCL’s Andrew Hudson-Smith, who captured the crowd’s imagination by demonstrating live feeds of data for London, offering interesting insights on data presentation to optimise human engagement and taking the audience on a virtual rollercoaster ride through the city (a worthy application of VR).

Chris Brauer of Goldsmiths, University of London, highlighted key points on human engagement with energy: citing recent research, he discussed the need for automated smart home energy solutions – contrary to assumptions, people are disinterested in actively moderating their energy use based on data provided. Brian Waterfield, High-end Visualisation Technical Lead at QEPrize donor company, Jaguar Land Rover, finished the morning on a high note by sharing real-life applications of virtual reality in JLR’s engineering processes, making a compelling case for a technology that enables lowered costs, higher quality and greater innovation.

Virtual reality technology on display at the RE.WORK Future Technology Conference 2015

The latest technologies were on display for delegates to try out Image by RD Media

After a coffee break, the team from CuteCircuit demonstrated a lighter side of engineering – specifically, the light-up ‘Galaxy’ dress, designed and programmed for Katy Perry to wear to the Met Gala in 2008. Stuttgart University’s architect Moritz Dörstelmann followed this tough act with a fascinating explanation of the use of robotic fabrication methods to build fiber composite structures, inspired by elements from nature, such as the homes of water spiders. Moving from water to air, on of the Design Museum’s designers in residence, Chris Green, brought a landscape populated and optimised by the presence of drones to life.

The remainder of the day explored the applications of technology to improvements in healthcare. The line-up included compelling speakers, such as Juan Moreno of the Cajal Institute’s Neural Rehabilitation Group, who shared examples of wearable robotic exoskeletons in action during patient rehabilitation and Sabine Hauert, who discussed new ways in which nanobots are able to work together to detect and treat cancerous tumours. This expression of the marriage of science and engineering was echoed later in the day by Simon Schultz of Imperial College, who described the advances being made by neuroscientists and engineers working to “reverse engineer” brain circuitry, in an effort to tackle the challenges of dementia and ageing.

Delegates networking at the RE.WORK Future Technology Conference 2015

The summit provided a great networking opportunity for those in the technology industry Image by RD Media

A further area of healthcare focus was the increasing decentralization of healthcare, both in terms of data-sharing and the development of tools and low-cost handheld molecular labs for easier, low-cost diagnoses in both the developed and developing world. Elaine Warburton of Quantu MDx discussed large-scale sharing of pathogen data and the potential of this activity to enable healthcare workers to prevent pandemics. In a slightly different vein, University of Strathclyde’s Mario Ettore Giardini demonstrated the application of the Portable Eye Examination Kit, or ‘PEEK’, for which he led hardware design. PEEK seeks to address human blindness across the world by empowering healthcare workers to screen for diseases.

Individuals from a variety of backgrounds attended the event and both speakers and audience enjoyed active discussion throughout. This took the form of both speaker Q&A and informal networking, as people converged around technology demonstrations in the breaks and over lunch. Attendees left the venue brimming with notes, inspiration and, in some cases; deep in collaborative planning conversations with others they’d met throughout the day.

You can read more about the event and the speaker line-up here. Keep an eye on the QEPrize blog for our summary of day 2 of the summit coming soon, and follow us on twitter for all the latest updates from the world of engineering.

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