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FutureFest 2015 Highlights: Day 1

By Ashleigh Adair

27 March 2015

Forster is constantly scoping trends and developments in technology that shape the way we communicate with each other, to ensure we’re keeping abreast of opportunities for our clients and the people’s lives we’re all working to protect and improve. Nesta’s FutureFest 2015 was recently held in London, and we were there to learn and emerge ourselves in the world of ‘futurethinking’. Here’s what we found…

Day 1: Ethics, Robotics and You.

From ‘blind robots’ to mind-controlled roller-coasters; the future is clearly machine-inclusive. Day 1 of Nesta’s FutureFest 2015 brought together leaders in lifestyle robotics, advocates (and critics) of an automated workforce, hand-gesture technology and the odd activist for climate change.

By far the highlight of the day was a live video chat with NSA whistle-blower and all-round nice guy Edward Snowden. We heard first-hand, in a candid but chilling way, how he feels about his actions and the subsequent consequences, about living without his family and about his optimism for the future.

Author Jon Ronson’s endearing rant about social media bullies was met with great applause as he introduced his new book ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed’, zeroing in on the story of one very real protagonist, Justine Sacco, whose life was arguably destroyed after a mis-interpreted tweet resulted in an unprecedented personal attack from the Twittersphere.

We were treated to a live demonstration of Mi.Mu gloves, a mesmerising musical invention from artist Imogen Heap that is already being tested out by pop stars such as Arianna Grande.

Having taken the ‘will you be replaced by a robot?’ Nesta interactive survey during the event, I can rest easy knowing that my job requires enough human emotional intelligence and intuition that will allow me to successfully compete with the inevitable world of automated employees (for now).

But of all the inventions and ideas presented on the day, what struck me the most was our collective acceptance as a modern society for previously shocking concepts. The idea of a robot designed to ‘steal my face’ (camera imaging projected onto a blank canvas robot face to make it look more human) as I talk to it should have felt alien and borderline offensive. In person however, it was entertaining and utterly intriguing to see the advancements in technology and how very close we are to accepting increasingly human-like robots into our everyday lives.

Read our Day 2 Highlights here.

FutureFest 2015 by Nesta is an all-weekend festival of innovation, future-thinking, debates, presentations and demonstrations from an eclectic and highly imaginative group of change-makers. For more information visit