How today’s creativity will inform our entertainment of the future

Editor’s Note:The following post by Rob Knies originally appeared on the Inside Microsoft Research blog .

Mary Czerwinski and Kati London of Microsoft Research will be participating in the Creativity Conference, a Washington, D.C., event that will examine how creators and makers are shaping our future.

What does the “creative process” really mean? Where do creative ideas come from? What is the relationship between creativity and technology?

Answering these questions, and a host of similar ones, will provide the focus for the second annual Creativity Conference, being held May 2 at The Newseum, in Washington, D.C. The event is designed to underscore the importance of innovation and creativity and will feature a collection of experts from the entertainment, technology, and political realms who will examine the themes of creativity, technology, and the economy. The conference will be streamed live from 9 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. EDT.

Among those experts are a couple of scientists from Microsoft Research: Mary Czerwinski and Kati London.

The event, presented by the Motion Picture Association of America, Microsoft, and ABC News, will include opening remarks by Fred Humphries, Microsoft vice president of U.S. Government Affairs. Also scheduled: a half-hour of remarks by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

Czerwinski and London will participate in a couple of intriguingly named conversations. Czerwinski’s will be a dialogue between her and Avi N. Reichental, president and CEO of 3D Systems, moderated by Rick Klein, political director of ABC News, on the subject Could Her Become a Reality?
London will contribute to a panel discussion called The Audience Era, intended to explore the ramifications of the additional power and influence technology has given to the consumers of games, television, movies, and more in the digital age.

Joining her on the stage will be Tony Goldwyn, an actor and filmmaker currently starring as President Fitzgerald Grant III in the hit TV series Scandal; Morgan Spurlock, a filmmaker best known for his fast-food documentary Super Size Me; and Amy Powell, president of Paramount Digital Entertainment. The discussion will be moderated by Juju Chang, co-anchor of ABC News’ Nightline.

“We’ll be talking about the relationships between audience and creator, and the role of innovation within that,” says London, known for her work with real-world games and the early Internet of Things. “I’ll be speaking about participation and engagement. I’ll probably touch on future opportunities for content to integrate networked data as a means to extend media experiences at the personal scale.”

The film Her addressed another aspect of the digital entertainment age, the rapid evolution of how we interact with technology. The film poses an audacious scenario: A man falls in love with the voice and personality of his operating system. As thought leaders in the field of affective computing, systems and devices that can identify, react to, and simulate human affects, Czerwinski and Reichental will discuss the latest in creative approaches to computing and how they are forging new possibilities for the use of technology.

“The idea is to state a particular stance on the future of affective computing and the ideas motivated by the movie Her,” explains Czerwinski, whose work focuses on emotion tracking, information-worker task management, multitasking, and awareness systems for individuals and groups. “Once we have made our positions known, I think it will be more interesting to have a repartee.”

With such fascinating, thought-provoking subjects at hand, the thrust of the Creativity Conference will be on understanding how technology and entertainment are evolving today and what that means for the future of both.

“My colleagues and I have thought a lot about what the future is going to be like,” Czerwinski says, “when your computing systems understand your emotional state over time and depending on your particular context. While, of course, this can be used for advertising, we prefer to focus on how to make the user truly aware of her own emotional state, both for reflection and for action.

“In addition, we believe computing systems can help the user if he or she is bored, focused, depressed, or stressed. Computing systems that know what delights or frustrates a user can also adapt in positive ways. This is where we see the area of affective computing being really useful.”

London, too, is eager to see how the relationship between technology and entertainment evolves.
“Much of my research and work is concerned with the future of entertainment as a means to drive real-world engagement and participation,” she says, “and the motion picture and news industries are huge drivers in this space. There are many opportunities for how new technologies open up channels for these industries—and what it means for how those industries define themselves.

“People change faster than industries and policy sometimes, and managing that is important for getting and keeping people engaged at those levels.”

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