Meet the cybercode twins, talking women in tech, and IoT at Watson Dev Con 2016
Penelope and America Lopez, identical twin sisters, community activists, developers, and women in tech join IBM onstage at the Watson Developer Conference…
Q: How did you get into tech?
It was really a happy accident, I happened to be at a hackathon, and from there my teacher encouraged me to continue. She helped me go off plan, and found interesting and creative ways for me to learn.
Q: The is a gender gap in programming, why is that? And how should we address it?
It is important to start early, and overcome the confidence gap.
When we were both at school we played a lot of soccer because there was little else to focus on. Now we work and talk with parents and teachers to emphasise the need for everyone to have access to tech.
We grew up in Los Angeles. Now in LA public libraries there are 3d printers, sowing classes using wearable tech, the opportunity to use Scratch (and open source coding tool for kids). Parents recognise the need for more maker fairs, and demoing tech projects in show and tell.
It’s important to start early, as college students we see the importance of promoting interest in computer science. There should be more hackathons, and conferences.
And those of us in the field could do more too. Make yourselves available as a mentor and a relateable role model – be the change you want to see! Preach it loud.
Q: You both focus on IoT, there’s not a lot of women in that field..?
No, there isn’t, and that’s the confidence gap again, and an interest gap. We’re focusing on a high profile project at the moment focusing on Virtual Reality and cognitive to help people with addiction.
We’ll demo the VR experience at the White House. It’s call Sobriety Labs, and uses Virtual Reality as therapy for people that need help with addiction. It can coach them through their triggers, provides simulations of how you can beat addiction and stay sober. And because it’s VR it’s even more anonymous than Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
Q: Back to IoT, what projects are you focused on there?
We focus on making communities safer through tech. We look at smart cities, civic tech, self-driving cars etc and focus on public safety. How can we increase safety for all people, especially the most vulnerable. Our work is about focusing on innovation in that space.
We were recently involved in a google innovation lab in partnership with the City of LA. It was a 3-month collaboration helping Los Angeles understand how tech could have a social impact. How could we prevent or solve homelessness, how do you contact firs responders when the phone network is down? We build up familiarity with tech, so people know what can be done.
Q; What is it that helps you think bigger?
We’re very civically engaged with our local community. I am (Penelope) on the neighborhood council, I spend a lot of time listening to the community. We also travel a lot to other countries, we’ve been teaching in Mexico on IoT, focusing on how to build and develop apps for a socially conscious community.
Q: where do you see stuff like Watson, cognitive, and AI, going in next five to ten years?
I’m excited for chat bot space. We recently worked with the Money 2020 conference on an app called Elf. It helps you with holiday shopping and budgeting.
I’m excited to see the developments in Virtual Reality too. Using VR to train surgeons in developing countries. And mixing chat bots with VR would really take things to another level.