Hong Kong Rise Conference 2018: Tech and Innovation


It was my first time at Rise  conference Hong Kong this year. What a great line up of speakers, exhibitors on the latest tech innovations. Also, noted the efforts at making the event a more sustainable and pleasant one – metal cutleries in the media village, wooden biodegradable cutleries at the eateries and recycling stations that carefully separated trash and recyclables.


There were so many exciting talks and events going on simultaneously, one had to be merciless with picking and choosing where to go. I gravitated towards talks and conversations about tools that enhance marketing today and the future.

So pleased to see so many Chinese tech companies represented at the event and talking us through the innovations and advances going on in their universe. Having lived in Beijing for 5 years, I’ve always believed that China is the future and way ahead of everyone else.

So, what does the future hold?



We live in a mobile world these days, and the development of so many different types of apps have made our lives so much easier (and lazier). Children are growing up with mobile devices and the key way everyone is consuming information and transacting these days.

I particularly enjoyed the Growth Summit talks that covered topics from fitness (Fitternity) to content (CultureTrip – what an inspiring story from nearly going bust in its first 4 years to global expansion plans), Banking and investment (Compare Asia Group) and online medical consultations (VideoDoc)

Other highlights include Grab Singapore’s ambition and new strategy to become South East Asia’s “super app”, moving beyond ride service – working with third party partners, bringing in games, news, content and beyond.

Nothing new here in terms of business direction, but what’s not cool is that it looks an awful lot like its Indonesian equivalent Go-jek.

I just got back from Singapore on Monday and still hearing about the discontent of the Uber-Grab merger and decided to be more mindful about ride fees – it’s a good $3-$4 more than if you just flagged down a taxi.


These were buzz words during the three day event and many discussions over how experiences and retail environments can be tailored according to AI and Data.

All of this will help create better UX, UI and more intuitive design, naturally enabling brands and businesses to sell better as they learn more about consumer habits, preferences, ultimately optimising all the information to drive sales, readership traffic or building relevant funnels. Data today is a goldmine that informs marketing and strategic decisions.

Issues of privacy and tipped in favour of the consumer/user’s perogative – wechat was way ahead of the game with this years ago when they launched their brand pages.

Meitu’s CEO Wu Xinhong demonstrates “Using AI in the search for beauty”



There was a whole stage devoted to conversations around this – I unfortunately couldn’t divide myself between so many places. Robots, AI and Data makes us question the role of humans in the future.

“Tech has replaced creative talent” was a discussion held with Tim Kobe (Eight Inc), Yali Saaar (Tailor Brands), moderated by Chen Wu (The Economist) with a 50-50 poll result. I personally don’t think that machines that replace creative problem solving, we can use data and AI to inform strategy and the implementation of these ideas, but at the core of it, the human emotion and intuition can never be replaced… or who knows in the future!


This was a topic that was also recurrently. Loved the panel “What’s the future of advertising?” with Mollie Spilman (Criteo), Richard Ting (R/GA Media Group Inc) moderated by Richard Lai (Engadget Chinese).

VR in a separate panel “Can we cure tech addiction?”  was linked to teaching empathy, which I found oddly wrong with how tech has made us less human and less connected as social beings, and relying on VR to learn empathy is sad.

I see how as a tool in this day and age and moving forward it, VR can create the false reality and prompt empathy with situational and circumstantial awareness, but I don’t think it’s something that can be taught, much less replace human interaction.

Tech was described as “slot machine of attention” liken it very much to casinos and the addiction of gambling to salt or sugar  – tech affects us all at a psychological level. It is insidious and slow moving.

AR however, I see how it enhances a retail environment, the eg given is if you’re going to buy a 5000$ sofa, you’d like to see how it’s going to look in your living room. Or how FMCG brand like L’oreal has used the technology to enhance its brand experience with AR with the Modiface app acquisition  Internationally.


This is still a relatively new arena and Richard Ting of R/GA media mentioned it’ll probably be in his children’s generation that it would really take off.

Alexa voice control has been the new thing in households lately, but hasn’t exactly seen rapid traction as yet. We’re still a mobile/tactile generation of consumers and haven’t quite adapted to voice just yet.


Sogou’s CEO Wang Xiaochuan demonstrated the new developments in the Sougou universe “The next frontier of Artificial Intelligence” with smart speakers, translations technology where language barriers can be broken down using AI and voice recognition and the cadence of one’s speech patterns. Sogou’s new developments have pretty much taken predictive input and responses to a whole new level – making full use of AI.


Fabulous presentation by CEO Peter Lipka of Improbable exploring the possibilities of tech and the opportunities in the gaming arena. He calls gaming : Meaningful Complexity and likens it to chess. Interactive role playing games and the rich possibilities on how an online game like Minecraft has found itself retail possibilities offline from lego to merchandises.


I thought the idea of building fake virtual worlds to understand problems and have proactive solutions was brilliant. In times of natural disasters or accidents, we’re always dealing reactively to situations because of the lack of knowledge to better prepare or even prevent accidents.


Building these virtual worlds allows engineers and everyone alike to have a better idea on what to anticipate and how to address them before we fall into the adversity in the real world.

I remembered a virtual art project/game by Chinese artist Cao Fei called RMB City in 2008. In that virtual world alone was the possibilities to get advertisers to put their brands’ ads in the virtual world


So many interesting conversations around content, engagement and search and the on-going puzzle of getting more visibility in the crowded online world. Iren Jay Liu “Google have algorithms code on verified sources and ranks content highly from authoritative sources.”


Looking to watch “Searching” the movie when it hits the cinema. Shot in 12 days entirely on devices in real time, one of my favourite panel of the conference. The topic “Hollywood’s initiative to keep online searching safe”, one that’s very relevant and close to our hearts.

The other fun bit is that it’s an all Asian cast. :)

Few other highlights include a panel on traditional vs digital companies, important questions and valid points about how we should keep digging into the wealth of experience and information as we move forward towards automation and the tech-led world.

And, a vajayjay hat at the Cunni booth an oral sex toy and the future of textiles showing the research and wonderful work of The Mills Fabrica.IMG_8475 IMG_0704

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