Most Innovative Meetings 2019: #10 Google I/O

The conference’s after-party infuses tech and culture in headline-grabbing ways.

In one buzzy moment from Google I/O’s festival-style evening events, Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips performed a song accompanied by A.I.-enabled inflatable fruit.
In one buzzy moment from Google I/O’s festival-style evening events, Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips performed a song accompanied by A.I.-enabled inflatable fruit.
Photo: Courtesy of Google

Before you think the Google I/O developer conference is all code and no fun, think again.

“This year we really leaned into how technology plays a role in the arts and culture,” said Amanda Matuk, executive producer of Google I/O, which was held in Mountain View, California, in May. “Technology isn’t just devices and bits of code. It’s actually what drives innovation in the art world these days.”

To that end, Google I/O highlighted the intersection of creativity and technology during its After Dark evening events. “The goal for the evening events is to provide a fun environment that showcases technology in a new and different way, and we want the developers to have time to network, get to know each other, and have a good time,” explained Matuk.

While the brand hosts a party and concert every year, it’s always evolving. “This year’s After Dark was festival style, a choose-your-own-adventure with interactive performances and installations all happening at once,” she continued. From magic shows and a tattoo studio to a full-blown arcade and even a “Wi-fries” snack station, the options were wide-ranging.

The conference makes a dramatic transformation from day to night, as everything takes place in the temporary campus built for I/O. “We do a fast flip and those same spaces where you had a breakout session are flipped into a full-blown arcade or a DJ stage, so everyone can seamlessly go from content to an enjoyable evening,” said Matuk. Once the evening’s entertainment ends, the spaces are once again converted to handle the next day’s sessions.

While concerts from big-name bands are often a conference staple, at Google I/O, they’re not just about entertainment value. “We typically look to partner with artists who are using technology in a new and interesting way,” said Matuk. “We look for folks engaged with us on a higher level.”

This year, for example, the Flaming Lips took to the stage and debuted a song that was performed alongside A.I.-enabled inflatable fruit. “Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips is always pushing the envelope on creativity,” said Matuk.

Next: #11 Mom 2.0
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