I got the opportunity to go to the 5th World Internet Conference (WIC) held in Wuzhen late last year. It was an invite-only event so that naturally made me curious as to what was going to be on display. Also, the fact that Wuzhen is an extremely scenic town (as proven by the cover picture) served as a good backup plan should the conference be boring.
What can you find there?
Initially, I was expecting it to be a typical tech trade show, with lots of fluff and not much stuff. But WIC didn’t disappoint. The typical topics of 5G, IoT and AI were present, but they did not just exist on the presenters’ slides. There were machines, software, etc for you to try out.
They’ve turned clinics into vending machines, allowing you to consult a robot and then dispense medicine to you.
Used some sort of facial recognition software to tell you how you’re better looking than the majority, and in exchange for your face, you get coffee.
Have random robots walking around hawking you with water. There were quite a number of them running about, from different vendors, doing different things.
The randomness continues with things like vending machines selling rice.
Scan your face and find your doppelgänger.
Beyond the exhibition halls of WIC, it made me realise how cashless China has become. Liquids are banned due to security measures. The vending machines selling water and only take QR payment. Even the street vendors, old people in their 60s take cashless payment. Fortunately, the Chinese are quite understanding of this and are happy to help you make a purchase on your behalf.
Will I go again?
The exhibition grounds were huge. It was great fun to just bump around from booth to booth to try out the stuff they have on display. There was no lack of robots or prototypes to try out. It made me realise that, maybe, all these technological advances are not that far fetched after all. We actually have a chance of seeing them in the near future. I would go again to see what’s new and how far they’ve got with improving their prototypes. Or maybe just to feast on the best snack I’ve eaten in my life. It’s this bread-like thing with salted vegetables on it.