Disrupt Asia 2017 Part Five: Taking Things Further With Stage 2.0


Thus far, we’ve seen a killer keynote about #letmegetpaid, we’ve been to a number of workshops covering topics from investors, to digital marketing to legal aspects of startups and everything in between. We’ve also seen a fully fledged Investor Forum. All in all, Disrupt Asia 2017 was as every bit as exciting as we expected it to be. Stage 2.0 was a collection of 3 panel discussions revolving around various topics such as Robotics, UX, and Makerspaces, which are three topics that are rapidly gaining popularity in today’s world.

AI & Robotics: The Future?

The first panel discussion for Stage 2.0 consisted of Prof. Rohan Munasinghe, Dept. of Electronic and Telecommunication Engineering, University of Moratuwa, Dr. Beshan Kulapala, Research Scientist, CodeGen International and was moderated by Nissanga Warnapura, Founder of 3D Concept Studio.

Robotics and AI are set to dominate a wide segment of our daily lives by 2025, with huge implications for a range of industries such as healthcare, transport and logistics, customer service, and home maintenance. This also means that because robots are doing work for us, the human effort needed becomes redundant, leading to unemployment.

Disrupt Asia 2017 Part Five: Taking Things Further With Stage 2.0 1Prof. Rohan started off the first discussion for Stage 2.0 by speaking about the 71 Billion Dollar market which is the world of robotics and unmanned automation. Eventually, these robots will be used in the automobile industry, which is growing at around 10% per year. Robots are used by Japan, Korea, US, Germany and finally China. China is slated to be the next epicenter of robotics. Even here in Sri Lanka, robotics are present in the Tea, rubber and coconut exports. Robotics is evolving at an exponential level. For example, in the next 5-10 years, robots could be visually unrecognizable from humans.

Prof. Rohan then spoke about the advancements of robotics in the local industry. If you recall, we covered the drones project of the University of Moratuwa. The next use of drones and robotics is for area mapping. These drones can be used to map large areas to produce 3D models. Furthermore, drones can also be used for delivery of packages, especially for delivering medicine and supplies to rural or disaster struck areas. They can also be used for crops and harvesting.

Dr. Beshan’s views were about transport and agriculture were both exciting and grim. While exciting times are indeed ahead with the advancements in transport and agriculture, around 7 million jobs will be made redundant by the year 2020. Dr. Beshan then spoke about Vega, Codegen’s ambitious electric supercar. Rather than go for a smaller vehicle, the purpose of Vega would be to gain expertise in carrying out larger, more difficult projects.

In addition, a project such as Vega would have higher margins rather than developing a smaller car. He urged people to read up and gain knowledge and also to team up with people who are not like-minded. This helps when looking at problems at a different angle. You must also be ready to fail. If you’re failing, fail fast so that you can get into something else with minimum down time.

The last topic that was discussed was about living wages. This is where robots do all the work and the profits that you get from their work would be so much that you can simply pay wages to the workers.

How design can make or break your product

The second panel discussion for Stage 2.0 consisted of Lee Bazalgette – Product Designer at Colombo Design Studio, Alain Parizeau – Head of Visual Communication and Design at Academy of Design, Joe Lenora – Founder of We Are Designers, Hasanga Abeyaratne – Founder and CEO at Amplifyn and was moderated by Chandula Bandara – Founder of KISS Labs.

You can design a UI, but you can’t design a UX, that’s what Hasanga says when asked the difference between a UI and UX. A good process would involve designing a user experience. Research is a key element to deliver a good user experience. Another question was that how a good UI can fall apart due to elements beyond our control. For example, if you have a beautifully designed website, and the internet connection of your users is slow, no matter how well designed the UI is, it will still be a problem.

Stage 2.0Lee Bazalgette explained good design by taking the example of a chair. If you take a chair, even though it does the same thing, there are various elements such as the design, materials used, where you’re going to use it. Design has to be broadened to understand the needs of the users. Ultimately what we’re trying to do is to make things do things well.

If you’re going to revolutionize an industry, make sure you can make it familiar – Lee Bazalgette

The three panelists also explained their views about measuring UX. Design is not cheap. You need to see if the money you’re spending is being used on design well and also to make sure that your design is going well and that your investments are paying off. Put aside a sizeable amount of your funds for design. Most companies skimp over design claiming that they have no funds for it. This would have a negative impact on your product. In conclusion, Lee, Alain, Hasanga and Joe. When it comes to testing, have different level of testing so that all your bases are covered.

MakerSpaces was the last point of discussion

The third and final panel discussion for Stage 2.0 consisted of Cheryl Edison, Hasith Yaggahavita – Founder of KidsIgnite, Michael Moonesinghe – Founder of Business Hubs and moderated by Kanishka Weeramunda – Founder of PayMedia. Kanishka started off by asking the panelists the difference between Makerspace and co-worker space. A makerspace is essentially where people with different backgrounds can get together and be creative. A co-worker space is different as it has a number of like-minded people working on similar objectives.

Michael started off by explaining how the US passed a bill to create Makerspaces. In comparison, Sri Lanka is now catching up to creating makerspaces. Michael also spoke about how they’re trying to find cost effective locations such as office spaces and even small houses to host as makerspaces. Hasith spoke about the current education system in Sri Lanka and compared ith with the systems abroad. These systems are far more advanced and significantly more detailed. He also emphasized the need for all schools in Sri Lanka, be in local, or private to have a makerspace.

Disrupt Asia 2017 Part Five: Taking Things Further With Stage 2.0 2As an example of a Makerspace, Hasith spoke about Startup X Foundry, an incubation space that was recently launched. The purpose of this Incubation space would be to accelerate the journey of startups going from inspiration to a successful exit. Currently, there are four startups that are a part of this accelerator.

Cheryl explained how this is the right time for makerspaces for people to come together and make their dreams come true. Michael further explained that Business Hubs, unlike Regus which is a shared office space, brings together people from different backgrounds, who can come together and brainstorm.

With that, Stage 2.0 came to an end

This by no means meant the end of Disrupt Asia for the day, but rather, meant that the best was indeed kept for last. Thus far we saw a number of startups, an Investor Forum, and numerous workshops. Stay tuned for the sixth and final article about Disrupt Asia, wher we cover the evening panel discussions, Hemas Slingshot battle, and the closing keynote.



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