I was able to attend Lenovo Tech World 2023 thanks to my participation in the Lenovo INsiders program. My travel and accommodations were covered and there was no cost to me to go to Austin, Texas. As part of my efforts to ensure 100% transparency, I am disclosing this information at the top of this article. If you have any questions, please contact me.
I have never had the opportunity to be invited or attend a technology conference before, so when Lenovo reached out to me through the Lenovo INsiders program to attend Lenovo Tech World 2023 in Austin, Texas on October 24, 2023 it wasn’t a chance that I was going to miss. With the emphasis being placed on Artificial Intelligence, I was intrigued as this is part my of area of interest for my graduate work that I mentioned when I announced that I was attending on my YouTube channel.
For those of you who are not aware, Laptop Retrospective is a hobby so I also had to ensure that I was able to secure time off and thankfully it worked out. With the last box checked, I packed light and headed to Austin, heading in the opposite direction of the Formula 1 traffic that was leaving Austin from the race that happened on the weekend. I passed one of the race teams in the airport when I landed in Austin; their bright yellow emblems caught my eye. It wasn’t just sporty jackets catching my eye as the roster of speakers covered multiple CEOs from the largest and most influential technology companies to key players in the security world, like the CIA’s former director on Cyber Intelligence
I also need to mention that I was not alone. Five of us INsiders were present and every one of them was a kind, welcoming and authentic individual. I was the newest member of the group present, being in the program just less than a year. Without Arthur, Jacqueline, Nikhil and Tom, I know for a fact the trip would not have been as enjoyable. For a very readable and in-depth account of his Lenovo Tech World experience, please consider checking out Arthur’s article . Please also consider checking out Tom’s article for a look at how AI will impact travel as well as his musings on some of the things we saw during our stay in Austin.
Special mention needs to be given to the team from Cycle Media (Thanks Andie, Kelley Anne and Kendra!) and those Lenovo staff (Thanks Hollyn and Taylor!) that took care of us, it was a critical part of enjoying the Tech World experience.
Now, on to the show.
AI for All
For those of you who tuned in live or read any of the press releases, you will know that Lenovo is serious about AI. There was a great deal of discussion and showcase on how AI will impact and equip enterprise users and businesses from large banks to companies that need to crunch huge volumes of data and even your local pub and grocery store. This was all very interesting but the parts that stole the show for me were how AI would be accessible to the individual. For those wishing to see the keynotes and other sessions please click here to watch the recording.
Large Language Models (LLMs) require a great deal of computing power and are not accessible to everyone and certainly not offline. Lenovo aims to change all this by putting AI on your personal devices, allowing it to learn to support you, do it offline and at the same time, safeguard your personal information and data. That last part is mission critical as right now the options for using an AI are either to run a limited model using the computing power you can afford or have locally or take somewhat of a risk and use a model available online that will have varying levels of privacy of that data. While many might wonder about this, large companies value customer data and can utilize it, but there is a limit on what they want to be responsible for keeping on their servers. Any data breaches that place liability on the company are best avoided so in a strange twist, overly personal data is better kept off corporate or public servers for both parties. When it comes to AI, there is a great incentive for larger companies to safeguard your data by not collecting it in the first place.
The keynote opened with an excellent and very appropriate demonstration of Project Libras which showed Brazilian Sign Language being captured in real-time and with the assistance of an AI, spoken and transcribed only a few moments after it was signed. This was followed by several demonstrations and partner announcements.
The demonstrations that I saw via Moto AI and Windows Co-pilot clearly illustrated that Lenovo has the hardware partners to do this work and to do it now. AMD, NVIDIA, Qualcomm, Intel and Microsoft made an appearance either virtually or in person. They are keen to take part in the AI-driven future and all of them are looking to Lenovo to deliver. Talk is often called cheap and many organizations have promised an AI-driven future since 2022 but this seemed like the first concrete and tangible step towards that reality and not just speculation.
Tech World’s focus was on AI so the devices on display were focused on their connection to that central theme which means there weren’t rows and rows of devices to play with and photograph but that does not mean the products there weren’t very, very cool. Quite the opposite in fact as many of them felt like they had a practical and bright future.
Besides the enterprise-level hardware that was being showcased, which was very cool and I’m glad I met up with Rob Herman in person so he could point it out, there were several devices that Lenovo had on the showroom floor for those present to examine.
The Adaptable Motorola phone was probably what got the most attention on stage in terms of demonstrations at least from the INsiders. It utilizes the same flexible display technology present in the RAZR line of phones but allows the phone to bend back using something akin to an accordion hinge. This allowed it to be configured in a variety of modes and positions including that of a wearable wrist-mounted device.
The device was fully functional and not a prop. A few things were lacking that would need to be sorted such as a decent camera. The example we saw had a single selfie camera behind the display which would not be acceptable in the year 2023 so they will need to sort that out if the device is developed to the point of being released. There are also questions around the care of the device including the durability of the screen and how to keep the sustainably sourced fabric back in good condition. Ideally, it would be replaceable/swappable. This would also help the phone be repairable which Lenovo execs are pushing with their other PC-based solutions.
I got the chance to see the ThinkPhone and it looked sharp. They had the device configured with Microsoft 365 technology that allowed you to plug the phone directly into a monitor and continue working on your desktop PC remotely. Very slick. It also allowed you to continue to use your phone as you would normally at the same time. In larger enterprise scenarios, it is conceivable that all a workstation could need is a monitor, mouse and keyboard. Everything else would be handled remotely. While I do not know if I will get the chance to use a ThinkPhone, it is nice to see they continue to add features to the device to increase its functionality. That gives confidence that the platform will continue beyond a single generation.
ThinkBook had a concept they called Autobot which uses the older ThinkPad X41T styled hinge in conjunction with an AI-powered camera to track the user and turn and tilt the display to ensure it is always facing you. The Lenovo staff and I discussed the possible uses in a video conferencing scenario and how it may be useful. Like all concepts, we will see if it makes it to production. The durability and longevity of the mechanism will be key points. Regardless, the ThinkBook is becoming a platform for experimentation whether its displays in the palm rest, e-ink dual displays or this Autobot concept.
There was a ThinkVision display that through the use of eye tracking can recreate 3D/VR experiences in front of the monitor without the use of glasses or goggles. Sadly this is not something you can capture on film but it most certainly works. Outside of VR development or 3D rendering work, I am not sure if it has many practical applications, but it was certainly effective and worked as intended. Arthur in his article linked above describes its use case better than I do, give it a read if you haven’t already.
Another honourable mention was Project Chronos which was set up to showcase motion capture capabilities without a complex rigging system or body suit. They had it capturing movements and displaying them on a detailed digital avatar in near real-time complete with facial expressions. I imagine that smaller independent studios to others that want to use motion capture for digital avatars will be waiting eagerly for this device to be released.
Lastly, while it wasn’t a showcase of explicitly Lenovo gear, the racing simulator they had set up was fun. It was an awesome experience as the whole rig not only felt authentic everywhere you physically touched it, but the sensation of tilt and speed was noteworthy. I was discussing with the company that brought the gear that one of their goals is to make racing available to more people and while a rig like the one I tried carries a heavy price tag, the era of eRacing I believe will be on us shortly. After all, eSports is firmly established, so why not eRacing? I would certainly want to give it a go and next time, I might not push the car quite as hard as my German instructor suggested.
Truthfully, Tech World was my first experience of this kind and I hope it is not the last. The people I got to meet, the experiences we shared and the technology I saw, were exciting. I’m looking forward to how AI will integrate into the next generation of devices that we will all use for work and play. As a person who has enjoyed the benefits of Co-pilot for Windows 11 on a preview build, what I saw on October 24th is a clear and positive step forward.
I hope you enjoyed my coverage on X/Twitter and YouTube and I cannot wait until I get to share with you again another such experience.