Geektime’s first Devfest kicks off in Tel Aviv for Techfest 2016

Developers from across Israel and the world gathered this morning in Tel Aviv for the country’s first ever Devfest

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While tomorrow features the primary startup conference that Geektime has hosted for nearly a decade, this year they wanted to offer something more.

“There wasn’t any real professional, content driven event for developers,” says Geektime Co-founder and CEO Moran Bar on their decision to include an extra day for the event. “We are proud and privileged to have these amazing speakers and audience. We want them to leave here inspired, having engaged in an exchange of information about the future of development.”

Directed at the developer community, today featured lectures on the philosophies, technologies, and trends facing developers. Special focus was given to the influence of Big Data and Natural Language Processing as fields that are having an impact on the industry.

“As the core, global facing ecosystem for developers, the most important thing is to stay up to date with the most cutting edge technologies. We hope to offer the development community continued value as the home of innovation.”

Speaking with attendees, they told Geektime that they were impressed with the level of the talks.

Dave Orian who is in the process of learning to code at Elevation Academy told Geektime that he found the talks on philosophies and Casey Bleeker of Cisco’s lecture “No UI is the new UI” inspirational, impacting the way that he sees the future of development. “Devfest was a lot of fun,” says Orian, “It had a great balance of technical experience/advice while also being really inspiring and chalk full of valuable insights.”
Others noted how talks on topics like Big Data helped to clarify how to use the new technologies and approaches effectively, drawing distinctions on when they are simply window dressing thrown on by companies because it sounds trendy.

In his opening remarks, Geektime’s COO and co-founder Yaniv Feldman welcomed the packed hall of over 1200 developers and other technology professionals, promising a day filled with talks on the latest trends in tech and innovation.
First to take the stage was Assaf Segal from the Sela Group, a sponsor of the event who told the crowd that they chose to support the conference as a great way to reach out to their key audience, the CTOs and other leaders in the industry.

CEO and founder of Israeli cyber security hybrid VC and incubator Team8’s Nadav Zafrir, who was up next, laid out the stark future of the job market for developers.
“It’s the best time ever to be a geek and developer,” he told the audience, describing how everything is moving to digital. For now he pointed out, that the market was extremely competitive with a high demand for developers. “For some of you,“ he said, “you don’t go for an interview, but to interview your employer.”

While the current pace of advancement is exciting, Zafrir pointed to the rapid movement towards automation as both the future and a challenge for developers.

“I think it’s just the boom before everything goes bust,” he says about how automation affects the job market. He sees groups like DARPA and even Uber as looking to drive forward automation that could upend the employment market as we know it.

“There are new ways of thinking about how we live,” he said, noting how the world is moving from what he calls Industry 4.0 to version 4.1, a similar shift to that of Web 1.0 to the 2.0 that has dominated the world. Whereas 4.0 was all about establishing the connectivity that links everything to a network, then we should expect a situation that is thrown into hyperdrive as the software layer comes in. He believes that automation will become more prominent, performing more aspects of the developer’s workload.

Drawing an example from a field he knows very well, he spoke about how during a DARPA cyber security competition, an automated program was able to find bugs and holes in a defensive system, essentially doing the work of a security professional for them.

There is a danger here for developers, as they may end up building themselves out of a job. Zafrir encouraged listeners to find new ways to be engaged in how they approach problems.

While computers like the Watson may be extremely intelligent, they lack certain qualities that only people have for the foreseeable future.

“There are some things like thinking out of the box that computers are bad at,” he explains. “They don’t have a sense of humor or thinking of new ideas.”

“The things that only humans can do, I encourage you to think about,” he advised to developers, telling them to get out of their comfort zone. “Look for places that you know nothing about and put yourself in those situations.”
Following Zafrir was eBay’s Chief Scientist & Director of Data Science Kira Radinsky, who spoke about the predictive ability of machine learning, and its implications for preparing for future situations.

Walking around the conference floor, attendees were engaged in networking in between sessions. Among the crowd were many startups on the hunt for developers to add new talent to their company. One such company was Aperio Systems, a new SCADA security startup that recently emerged from stealth.

One of the highlights of the day was the presence of Microsoft’s HoloLens, the company’s groundbreaking mixed reality device. Speaking on the future of the format was Adir Ron, who held a special session talking about how developers can create new content on the platform with Windows’ new set of tools.
Microsoft is teaming up with other manufacturers of virtual reality devices like HP, Lenovo and others on the road to building the new field of content.
Mixed reality is a different world from simply the VR and augmented reality worlds Ron told the audience, incorporating new elements like gaze, gestures, and movements with the many sensors that are built into the device.

Windows 10 Creators update will include 3D capabilities by default. They want these capabilities not to be niche but a part of every device.

In Microsoft’s new ecosystem, holographic apps will be built with Unity. It will not be proprietary, says Ron, using instead a protocol that everyone works with.

One of the tools that looks very promising is the ability to make models with 360° videos that can be scanned and uploaded for tinkering with through the Remix3d Portal. You can design an object and print it with a 3D printer, moving from the digital to the physical.

Ron says that with they are entering all kinds of sectors with their new technology, allowing developers an easier way to create new content with a variety functions. He points to Volvo for instance as a company that has developed a new section of their app that allows users to look under the hood and see all of the parts

Like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s recent demonstration with the Oculus Rift where he held a virtual meeting with members of his team, HoloLens is now being explored as a social app as well, looking for ways to let people have a more intimate way to connect with each other.
As the day drew to a close, and obligatory swag in hand. Some left with a shirt from Cisco, an umbrella from another sponsor, while others came away with new job offers.

For the Geektime staff, it was off to an evening of shmoozing with some of the top CEOs in the industry, and thoughts of how to make tomorrow’s event just as engaging and exciting for the community.