Heidi Culbertson at VOICE

Day Zero: Afternoon Workshops and Hackathon Winners

After the lunch rush and dozens more check-ins, attendees flocked to the pre-conference sessions while students explored the floor dedicated to STEAM Day.

Sponsored by Prudential and led by forward-thinking students, STEAM Day shares fascinating projects with the goal of inspiring others to pursue their interests in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. The area is buzzing with excited kids and teens (and more than a few curious adults) checking out the stands and sitting comfortably in the theater to learn more about what's possible with STEAM.

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Students learning about each other's projects at STEAM day.

Meanwhile, on the other side of campus, three workshops are underway (and absolutely packed). The first room to test its capacity for people is holding Adva Levin's session on creating engaging voice experiences.

During their five-minute break, the room is filled with loud chatter and the sound of extra chairs being moved to the edges of the room. Adva (founder of Pretzel Labs) then walks up to her podium and silence falls as she re-starts her session. A UX researcher in the corner dutifully pockets his phone and sets the tip of his pen to his notepad, ready for important note-taking.

20190722_142534Attendees listening to Adva Levin's session on building engaging Voice experiences.

In the Central Campus building, there are no seats to spare as Bret Kinsella from Voicebot.ai gives his Voice Strategy Workshop—answering questions in between his insights. A few attendees stand in the back, taking advantage of their low-key presence to approach the coffee table by the wall.

A few rooms over, Heidi Culbertson from Marvee is using earplugs and sunglasses to help her crowd truly understand the perspective of older adults with limited vision and/or hearing. Soon after, she announces that their next activity is to map out a "happy journey" for people with low vision when using apps. As soon as she gives the "go," attendees flurry together in their groups as Heidi answers questions here and there.

"I'm seeing light bulbs go off as far as the nuances for designing the conversation for older adults. Talking about situational design in small groups brings out amazing creativity—ideas even I hadn't thought about."
Heidi Culbertson, Founder and CEO, Marvee.

Heidi Culbertson VOICE Heidi Culbertson at VOICE
Attendees at Heidi Culbertson's session on designing for older adults.

Back at the Hackathon, nearing the close of Day Zero, each group nervously gives their presentation in the hopes of taking home a prize. A few hours later, it's time for the judges to deliberate.

There are various winners, one was Team MP3 with an Alexa skill called Animals and Actions, (which you can read all about on Github). Team Baby Boom impressed with their own Alexa Skill that gives weekly facts about the progression of a woman's pregnancy. Team Makin turned heads with their Bixby Capsule. Team Frequency used the Twilio platform to answer health questions and set an appointment with the right physician. Finally, Team Catching Waves scored a prize with their Alexa skill for friends to share and join activities (hiking, kayaking, going out to eat, etc.) with each other.

Team MP3 Makin

Team Frequency Catching Waves Baby Boom
Team MPS (top left), Team Makin (top right), Team Frequency (bottom left), Team Catching Names (bottom center), Team Baby Boom (bottom right).

As 6 PM rolls around, most attendees start to head back to their hotels to rest up and prepare for the big open tomorrow.

While not without hiccups, Day Zero of VOICE has finally come to a close—at least within the walls of the NJIT. Out in Newark, however, both staff and guests are dressing up and packing their business cards for the VIP Reception at the Newark Museum. It's the opportunity of the evening to network, enjoy the VOICE ambience, and chat about the event ahead. After that, it's time for the developer's to have their fun at the Developer Appreciation night over at Barcade (Bar + Arcade).

Stay tuned.

Interested in reserving your spot for VOICE 2020? You can already do it, and it's right here.