This morning at Virtual SEMICON West, I tried to attend a bunch of sessions and take notes so I could write about them. I really did. But I was experiencing information overload. And so, I decided to just listen to and watch a few, and maybe go back to the ones that really inspired me. Then I spent time cruising the SEMICON West Expo Hall to visit our community members and get their feedback on this virtual version of an iconic event.

Recommended Viewing

One of the beauties of a virtual conference is on-demand content. Here are a few presentations that I definitely want to revisit, and I suggest if you have time you watch them too.

Tel’s Terry Higashi’s talk tops my list for today. He was a breath of fresh air in a world that has become so divisive. In this time of uncertainty, he says science and technology can help by being mindful of protecting human rights, promoting health, reducing poverty, spreading education, and saving the environment. It’s about acting from a place of humanity. In the case of COVID 19, we can contribute to humanity by wearing a mask and maintaining a social distance. As an industry, we can tap into “the wisdom of collaboration.” Higashi noted the Distributed Computing Project, as an example. The DCP comprises Individually owned computers that are linked, networked, and used to analyze Covid-19 protein sequences. This leads to useful information for the treatment of the disease. He had other pearls of wisdom to offer, so be sure to check it out.

Another presentation I want to spend more time with is Paul Saffo’s talk on “Chasing Fires” by which he means chasing exponential events that if left unabated, results in catastrophic consequences – such as we’ve seen with COVID 19. Saffo is a forecaster for large-scale technology change, which I interpret like this: his job is to scare the crap out of us, so we do something before it’s too late. Not the feel-good approach of Higashi’s presentation, but effective all the same.

According to Saffo, the pandemic has been the most predicted event. And the second most predicted event in our future is a great earthquake – magnitude 8.3, that will eventually hit Silicon Valley.

Our job, as an industry, is to help overcome exponentials that are impacting the general public, he says. He says over the next five years, that means looking for consequences of an exponential, not just the opportunities it might bring to our industry. He called on us to anticipate, educate, and think about how we can change the slowest part of the exponential equation to create a world where institutions and societies respond early to exponential change. Catch it when it starts, starve it of fuel, so you can put it out early. (I think a few people in Washington would benefit from this advice.)

Onto the SEMICON West Expo Hall

I decided to spend the rest of the morning doing what I always do on Day 2 of SEMICON West – cruising the Expo Hall and visiting with 3D InCites community members to see how the show is going for them. Here’s what’s weird – I’m sitting here in my family room and I KNOW I’m in virtual chats, but in my head, the person on the other end of the chat is in a booth at the Moscone Center – not also sitting in their home office or kitchen, chatting back. Does anyone else have that feeling?

When I expressed this to EV Group’s Dave Kirsch, he remarked that was impressed with the effort behind the networking or ‘expo-experience’.  “I think Semi really tried to deliver the “meeting in the aisle experience,” he added.

For many attendees and exhibitors, attending a virtual event is new to them – especially for those who have been regulars at SEMICON West for the past 10, 20, or 50 years. The opinions people run the gamut from: “I’m still trying to figure out this platform” to “This is JUST LIKE a real show.” Or “It was slow the first day, only one lead” to “We’ve had lots of activity, but mostly overnight”.

Everyone agrees on one thing: SEMI has done a stellar job in the time they’ve had to work with when the only other responsible choice would have been to cancel SEMICON West altogether. They get high marks for researching options, pivoting on everything, and pulling it off with no time to spare. Any negative comments were not directed at SEMI, but the difference between a live and virtual show.

“It doesn’t make up for the human element of face-to-face interaction, but it is making the best of a tough situation,” noted Garrett Oakes, EV Group.

“SEMI did a great job reaching out to exhibitors and gauging next steps back in April/ May,” said Andrew Larson, CyberOptics. “The virtual experience they put on together with 6Connex is working well functionally, but It is something to get used to, in comparison to an in-person floor experience.” He added that going forward, he doesn’t think virtual shows will ever fully replace events, but maybe a hybrid of both virtual and face-to-face, with scaled-down live events, will be a viable solution.

“The platform here is nice, the challenge comes with us learning to engage people differently,” noted Ryan Honeycutt, imec. “I appreciate trade shows pivoting so quickly to provide an alternative to in-person experiences but of course it’s not as effective so far as a physical show. We will come together as a team to find some best practices going forward.”

“It’s been a good event overall and we are making some new connections, as well as saying hello to people we know,” said Mike Pinelis, Microtech Ventures.

And Chip Scale Review’s Larry Michaels shared that traffic from “the little screen” in their virtual booth, where the new Chip Scale Review website was shared, resulted in 5,547 new users, and 10,797 pageviews, without having announced they were launching a new website. That’s impressive.

“I quite like it from a presentation perspective,” said Michelle Bourke, Lam Research. “I can see more of them, and get from one to another quickly rather than racing across the different parts of Moscone/ San Francisco! I don’t like not seeing people though.”

One thing that could not be recreated virtually, and is sorely missed by me, my colleagues at Kiterocket, and several hundred invited guests, is the annual Kiterocket SEMICON West After Party, which would have taken place last night. Let’s hope that we will all be together again next July for the real thing. ~ FvT


Francoise von Trapp

They call me the “Queen of 3D” because I have been following the course of…

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