Dr Mark Sagar was keynote speaker at first PwC Herald Talks event.

              Dr Mark Sagar was keynote speaker at first PwC Herald Talks event.

How do you make a virtual infant prototype cry? Move away from the webcam.

Last Wednesday morning David and I along with around 500 other people from the Auckland business ecosystem came together to kick-off the first PwC Herald Talks event. The topic this time was Innovation in New Zealand. 

The aim of the series is great - business leaders come together to hear from other leading industry experts and network over morning coffee. Organisers hope insights learnt will contribute to more innovative and agile business leadership. Three more of these events are to be held, the last in December 2015, with a great selection of keynote speakers and panelists planned. 

Dr Mark Sagar & BabyX

Minister for Innovation Steven Joyce opened the event, before handing the stage over to keynote speaker Dr Mark Sagar, associate professor at Auckland University. Dr Sagar then showcased BabyX, an experimental virtual infant, interactive and incorporating computational models of basic neural systems involved in interactive behaviour and learning.

She was breathtakingly amazing to watch, and it was a great chance for Dr Sagar to showcase what he and the Laboratory for Animate Technologies have been working on.  It was striking to see our humanity reflected back on us through this technology and it made me think about the part that New Zealand is playing in bringing about the future.  

The Widget 'Innovation' Trap

Samantha Renolds, from Universal Soup, asked a thought provoking question about how New Zealand businesses are addressing the issue of sustainability. What I took from her question was that ‘innovation’ to generate more widgets for a consumer society seems like a trap that we as kiwi innovators need to get out of.  Innovation needs to be about a lot more that tinkering in a garage, it needs to be about creating solutions for an increasingly challenged world. 

A panel discussion to finish the event included Dr Sagar, Bruce Hassall from PwC, Rod Snodgrass from Spark, and Mary Quinn from Callaghan Innovation.

I was lucky enough to be interviewed after the event (I'll credit my moustache for getting the interviewers attention ;-) and my feedback was included in the highlights video. Check it out here!

The next event is planned for August 26, and you can read more about it here.