Conferences are a crazy flood of news and tech updates and speakers and networking and…whew, I’m tired just thinking about it. But some amazing things come out of them. Here’s the run down on four standouts from Techcrunch Disrupt SF 2018. I didn’t attend myself but like to keep abreast of emerging tech and the highlights below were pretty neat tech announcements.

TechCrunch Disrupt is a HUGE tech startup conference, held here in California. This year was the biggest one yet. It featured triple the floor space, double the attendees, and 1,200 exhibiting startups in industries like AI, AR/VR, Biotech, Blockchain, Robotics, and more.

Starry aims to deliver affordable high-speed 5G internet

Boston-based startup Starry wants to put high-speed 5G internet in major cities  – at a reasonable price. At Disrupt, the company announced that it is expanding service from Boston to New York City.

How does it work? The beam is on a high roof. The point sits on a lower roof. And the user gets a Starry Station. This is like a modem that delivers internet service to the home. As a hardware solution it’s impressive. Plus it allows the company to offer consumers a more affordable internet service. For $50 a month consumers can get up to 200 megabits per second service. No data caps, no long-term contracts, and installation is free.

Here’s a diagram from Starry of how it works:

Looking to get away from the larger internet service providers and cut costs? Starry might be coming to a city near you in the near future.

BMW launched a personal voice assistant for its cars

We’ve known for a while that voice assistant technology is on the rise. But it’s not just portable devices. BMW has premiered its digital personal assistant for its cars. It’s called BMB Intelligent Personal Assistant which is a bit of a mouthful but you can’t actually personalize it and name it whatever you’d like.

A few weeks ago BMB also launched its integration with Amazon’s Alexa. The Alexa integration isn’t necessarily directly related to your driving experience, whereas BMW’s own assistant is. You can do everything from adjust the climate to check the tire pressure. (You could also, I suppose, carry out more philosophical conversations if that’s more your style.)  The BMW assistant is designed to remember your personal preferences and proactively suggest adjustments.

As BMW’s senior vice president Digital Products and Services, Dieter May said, “BMW’s Personal Assistant gets to know you over time with each of your voice commands and by using your car. It gets better and better every single day.”

I’m not sure that I’ll ever drive a BMW but for those who embrace the cars-becoming-computers-on-wheels this might be a great next step.

Getting conversational with Viv

Viv, the brainchild of Siri co-creator Dag Kittlaus, is a new AI platform that is less chatbot and more conversational, general assistant. The voice-activated digital assistant gives developers and hardware makers the opportunity to take any product or interface and incorporate a conversational user interfaceIt’s built so developers can easily create complex experience.

Sure, it’s a crowded market with Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Google Assistant all offering similar solutions. But Viv looks pretty cool, albeit a touch creepy since devices will essentially be thinking for themselves.

Forethought AI: Startup Battlefield winner

There’s also a three day startup competition at Disrupt.It’s highly competitive and comprises of the groups presenting in front of groups of VCs and being judged, with the change to win $100,00. And a big silver cup. Twenty-one startups participated in Startup Battlefield and at the end, Forethought won out.

Forethought‘s state-of-the-art AI helps customer service answer questions in a fraction of the time. Agatha AnswersTM is an app for Customer Support on Zendesk and Salesforce but there are certainly plans for expansion and growth outside the customer service enterprise.

Advanced deep learning allows Agatha Answers to surface up valuable answers from past support tickets, similar questions, and knowledge bases. It also automatically categorizes and tags tickets with metadata so support managers can extract insights later from analytics. It can generate the right answer without being explicitly taught what that answer looks like. What’s more, the AI can also find the right span of words in videos and return answers in videos to the user.

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It’ll be interesting to see the influence these, and similar technologies, have and how they’ll shape our marketing strategies. Do you have a favorite conference that you attend? If so, what makes it so great?

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