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Brief Published: 30 Oct 2020

EmTech MIT 2020: Three Key Brand Takeaways

MIT Technology Review

MIT Technology Review’s virtual summit EmTech (October 20-22) highlighted the emerging priorities and innovations shaping digital interactions. We note Facebook’s strategies against misinformation, opportunities to move away from screen-based interfaces, and McKinsey’s advice for building business resilience. 

  • Mitigate Misinformation, Prioritise Personal Safety: Facebook’s chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer said that misinformation has become “a critical issue” both financially and culturally for the business: “We’ve learned the hard way […] but it’s on us to build it responsibly as we go.” He insisted that “rapid progress” has been made, with Facebook taking down seven million pieces of Covid-19 misinformation in 2020 Q2. 
    Facebook’s renewed focus on user safety and trust is also shaping their user experience design, in-building safety feature tools. This month, the tech giant updated its virtual reality (VR) use policy with information about respecting personal space and improper gestures. Schroepfer pointed to new safety bubble features developed for its social VR platforms (like Facebook Spaces and Oculus Venues), which surround users’ avatars and turn both figures invisible if breached, coupled with safety tools for reporting unwanted interactions.
    The innovation lets users create large-scale interactive surfaces with airbrushed functional inks and sensors, seamlessly integrating digital user interfaces with the physical environment. Successful tests to date include an interactive sofa that controls a television, and a street post with a touchable display that provides audible information on subway stations and local attractions. 
    With such a flexible application, and seemingly unrestricted in size, the aim is “to collaborate with graffiti artists and architects to explore the future potential for large-scale user interfaces in enabling the Internet of Things for smart cities and interactive homes,” according to CSAIL researcher Michael Wessely.
    See Ambient Interfaces in 9 Tech Trends to Watch in 2020 for more, and look out for our report Towards Seamless Interfaces, publishing November 23. 
  • Be Data-Ready for the Next Pandemic: McKinsey Global Institute’s analysis predicts cross-industry business could lose 42% in net present value over the next decade due to supply chain disruptions. Accordingly, Michael Chui, a partner at the firm, urged brands to invest in data sources like AI and analytics to troubleshoot potential emergencies: “If you don’t have the data in order to understand what’s going on, you’re not going to be able to respond.” 
    He added that instead of simply making pay cuts for financial cushioning, brands should plan for a range of scenarios, and have the mental discipline execute them early. 
    For our forecast on how tech will meet new-era challenges, see our Look Ahead 2021