Wolfram Technology Conference 2022
For more than three decades, Wolfram Research has brought together the most interesting cohort of Wolfram technology users from around the globe to network and learn during its annual Wolfram Technology Conference. This year, I was able to participate in my first conference. I am neither an expert nor even a practitioner of computational science, but rather an enthusiast of the technology industry and a relatively new employee of Wolfram.
My goal in attending was to sit back and soak up as much as I could in panels and discussions with the other attendees and speakers. I was in awe to see the Wolfram technology stack being used in so many unique applications. It was immediately made clear that, despite actively seeking out and promoting unique projects on our blog, I truly had no idea how many different areas are innovating with Wolfram technologies.
Getting the Week Started
We started off the week with one of several social mixers that introduced me to this diverse group of people who had come together to share their passion for Wolfram Language. I quickly found myself engaged in conversation, learning about different attendees’ projects and their own goals for their conference experience. It was eye opening to see Wolfram Language being used in so many different applications, such as paper production and aircraft design, and to get a deeper look into topics I had heard of by name but had no real exposure to, such as blockchain or machine learning.
I also found some kindred humanities-based spirits and became enthralled in conversations about the future of fine arts and advanced technology. I was ecstatic to experience the mysterious computational X as I learned about how Wolfram is being used in art development, artifact analysis and paper production. I realized that I now possess the tools to turn my fascination with these subjects into experimentation and research.
After the opening reception, we attended the keynote speech given by our very own Stephen Wolfram. Stephen shared his hopes for the future, reviewed the latest features of Wolfram Language from Version 13.1 and gave a sneak peek into upcoming features for Version 13.2.
Let the Learning Commence
In between socializing with my newfound friends, I made a point to attend as many sessions as my schedule would allow. The sessions were broken into three different events: lectures, meet-ups and workshops.
The lectures were given by Wolfram developers and industry and academic researchers. Our internal developers had the opportunity to share their latest features and a sneak peek of what is to come, while researchers were able to share their progress and completed projects. My decision process for which lectures I would attend often consisted of me looking over the schedule, an unusual topic catching my eye and being shocked to think that work in that particular field is being done with our language.
The meet-ups, also called office hours, gave attendees the opportunity to sit down, round-table style, and chat with speakers. I was fortunate to attend a chemistry office hour with several folks from our chemistry team and get a closer look into the thought process behind a scientific development team and their goals for the future, but that’s a post for another day….
The workshops gave group training sessions from Wolfram experts on varying topics and Wolfram U courses. This gave users the chance to practice what they had heard in different lectures and get started on their own projects for the future.
Innovator Awards Dinner
Halfway through the week was the Innovator Awards dinner. The Innovator Awards are an annual tradition for the conference that recognizes individuals, groups and companies who have performed exceptional and innovative work with Wolfram technologies. Stephen gave awards to eight new winners from around the world who had a wide array of unique applications and examples of computational intelligence. Read more about this year’s recipients and their work in our blog post.
After awarding and celebrating the winners, Stephen invited everyone to participate in an open Q&A session, stretching well into the late-night hours. He answered every question with enthusiasm and careful consideration. I later spoke to some of the folks who had asked questions; some indicated that the opportunity had provided a breakthrough in their own research or analysis of Stephen’s work.
The One-Liner and Get Visual Competitions are designed to encourage participants to create an output within a set of constraints that is presented blindly before a panel of judges. At the end of the week, we got to see a selection of the entries and a demonstration of the winners. It was so much fun watching such unique and entertaining uses, including a digital theremin, linguistics analysis and more.
Ending the Week
In addition to serious learning, networking and sharing information, there were plenty of social activities planned—including a pizza party and a game night. By the end of the week, I felt so overwhelmed with all of the information I had taken in that it was great getting a chance to kick back and have some fun. Being a remote employee, I really enjoyed taking these opportunities to meet and spend time with the coworkers I often communicate with but don’t have a chance to actually hang out with or see beyond a profile picture.
Our pizza night at a local pizzeria and game bar gave us a chance to relax together and enjoy a night of fun and billiards outside of the venue we had committed ourselves to for the week. Drifting through the crowd, I heard conversations about people realizing they shared a hometown, brilliant ideas for collaborations, coworkers finally having water-cooler chats about crazy projects, and philosophical discussions on mortality and what it means to love.
The game night finished out the week by turning one of the conference spaces, which previously housed other conference activities, into the ultimate arcade with retro gaming systems and all kinds of board games. With the roaring laughter and challenges across the room, I know that it was a well-deserved and much-needed breather after such an intense week of learning. Personally, I was just excited to finally play a game of Scrabble with difficult challengers, including my team manager.
Going beyond the Conference
Over the week, I met some who have built their entire careers and companies on the Wolfram technology stack, some who use it for routine research and development and some who are just getting started learning how to shape their ideas with their newfound technology. The one thing everyone had in common, though, is that the versatility of the technology stack has allowed everyone to go beyond and leave their mark in the world of technology. This has been a pillar of Wolfram—many of you may be familiar with the fact that Stephen’s original creation of Mathematica was intended to do the mathematical heavy lifting in his physics research.
When I think of Stephen’s story (and the stories of those I’ve just met), I can’t help but feel a sense of optimism about what computation and our technologies will make possible for the next generation of scientists, mathematicians, researchers… and myself. It’s exciting to think of what will be done with Wolfram and what I might be able to do with all that I know from my first Wolfram Technology Conference.
|Watch this year’s tech talks and look out for future uploads from the 2022 Wolfram Technology Conference.