Conferences. Ugh. Yes, even at my tender age, I'm already a cynic. If you've been to a few industry conferences, you've been to them all. Or, at least, it certainly feels that way -- stale and/or stuffy convention halls, monotonous speakers, same old same old sessions ("how to monetize..." blah).
Even after a mere six years as a journalist (followed by a period as a recovering/relapsing journalist), I've already become a bit blasť. Then I saw the Solid Conference agenda.
Solid Conference will be held Wednesday and Thurday, May 21 and 22, in San Francisco. The tagline "Software/Hardware/Everywhere" wasn't what got me. Nor was the now-standard promise of learning more about the convergence of hardware and software beyond the Internet of Things, wearables, smart grids, industrial Internet, advanced manufacturing, frictionless supply chains, etc. I mean, that's all well and good, but it's about as standard as it is solid.
What made my eyes light up with the excitement of a child unwrapping a present was the stellar list of speakers and session abstracts, which appears to be straight out of the singularity.
The sessions range from the super meta Making Machines That Make to the awesomely fun-sounding Real Time Robot Dance Party, where attendees can watch "Roombas sway to gentle computer generated music, while Spheros balls roll with flashing lights," and from the Harry Potter-esque Designing With Invisible Materials to the supremely creepy Beyond the Screen: Humans as Input-Output Devices.
There's everything from the futuristic but financially practical Why Our Machines' Inner Lives Are the Key to the Next Economic Revolution and There Is No China Button (because "making something is easy; making something that can be made is hard -- very hard") to the decidedly neo-Marxist Giving Factories a Voice in the Age of the Industrial Internet and the wittily titled Your Thing is pwnd -- Security Challenges for the IoT.
Even the speakers have a cool factor, from Google's famous Astro Teller to a UC Berkeley grad student with the awesome name Valkyrie Savage. (I'm stealing that name for my future offspring, by the way.)
Solid Conference seems decidedly legit in a way most serious technology conferences haven't been for a long while. Heck, even the venue is great -- Fort Mason, a unique art, performance, and meeting space on San Francisco's waterfront.
It's refreshing to see hardware getting its mojo back -- to see it becoming sexy again as physical things become not only connected, but also useful. It's hugely satisfying to see 3D printers, developer boards like Arduino, and crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter have their day after years of being relegated to the sidelines as gimmicks. So, Solid Conference, I'll be there with bells on. Who's coming with me?