What's the future of technology? Our top picks from Wall Street Journal's 3rd Technology Conference

WSJDLive 2016 was held in Laguna Beach, CA, October 24-26. Photo posted by Scott Austin, WSJ Tech Editor,from Wall Street Journal Twitter feed, 10/26/16.

WSJDLive 2016 was held in Laguna Beach, CA, October 24-26. Photo posted by Scott Austin, WSJ Tech Editor,from Wall Street Journal Twitter feed, 10/26/16.

Wall Street Journal’s much anticipated 3rd Technology Conference brought together some of the most recognized influencers, 
thought leaders and innovators to unveil their top predictions on the future of technology – where it’s headed in 2017 and beyond.

This year’s coverage is extensive, including video interviews, Twitter feedhighlights and presentations. As we noted in our 2014 recap of the first Wall Street Journal’s WSJ.D Live Conference, it takes a bit of a commitment to read through it all, so we pored through it and pulled some of our favorite quotes and highlights listed below.

Alphabet's Astro Teller, current CEO of Alphabet's moonshot factory at Google(x), about self-driving cars: “The world is going to have cars that are sold to individuals and cars that are shared by individuals, and which one Alphabet does, we have our thinking on it,” he said. “But right now we’re very focused on safety.” He added that Alphabet’s cars will be fully autonomous from the start, “You press a button and tell the car where you want to go.”

Microsoft Corporation’s Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella on his vision for Microsoft and where the company can improve: “We want to push to be more of a learn-it-all culture than a know-it-all culture… you’ve got to be able to add unique value and be on the hunt for the next big category. The ultimate computer, for me, is this mixed-reality computer, where your field of view becomes an infinite display, where you see the world… This is not happening tomorrow. It’s not happening next year. But that is the continuum we are on.”

John Maeda, global head of computational design and inclusion at Automattic Inc. talks about product design and the user experience: “When products prove too hard to use, engineers often jokingly say ‘RTFM,’ for read the f–ing manual. That approach won’t work anymore, he said, adding products will fail if they aren’t designed well. You say ‘RTFM’ and they’ll say ‘F’ back to you.”

Mr. Maeda praised Microsoft’s efforts with inclusive design, the method of creating products and service accessible to as many people as possible. “Their design is perhaps most advanced,” Mr. Maeda said.

Michael Wolf, technology strategist and consultant at Activate Inc. in a presentation about what’s Next for Tech and Media in 2017: “Internet companies have largely focused on people with reliable access to the internet, credit cards and bank accounts. By overlooking consumers without such advantages, media and tech companies are missing out on a potential population of 50 million Americans. People without credit cards, for example, can’t use Spotify AB’s streaming music service or hold accounts on Apple Inc.’s iTunes.”

Wolf added, to eliminate these barriers to entry, services should broaden the types of payments they accept, such as cash payments, prepaid credit or debit cards. Companies also need to rethink their pricing structures for the 32% of Americans living in nontraditional households—outside the conventional two-parent or single-parent structure—or who may be non-English speakers or undocumented immigrants.

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty talks about how her company has changed its focus as the world has changed: In an interview with WSJ's Gerard Baker at the WSJDLive, Ms. Rometty estimated a billion people will use Watson, a collection of artificial-intelligence software delivered as cloud-computing services, by 2018. She said the company is particularly enthusiastic about the uses of Watson in healthcare. IBM announced a relationship last week with Quest Diagnostics Inc., in which Watson will help analyze the results of genetic sequencing of tumor samples of cancer patients. She said IBM also is helping to provide Watson-based services to help doctors in India, which has a severe shortage of cancer specialists.

These are just a few examples of the dozens of speakers who provided their insights on the future of technology at Wall Street Journal's 3rd Technology Conference. If you want to do the deep dive into WSJDLive check out these video recaps, and you’ll see other speakers including former NBA star turned venture capitalist Kobe Bryant, Marc Benioff (Salesforce), Troy Carter (Spotify), Reed Hastings (Netflix), Dava Newman (NASA), and Susan Wojcicki (YouTube). The breadth of the speakers and topics – from self-driving cars to medicine to breaking down socio-economic barriers –  illustrates how far technology has evolved beyond servers and gadgets. We are in an increasingly connected world where people and their needs are driving IT.