Martina Morawietz


Digital X 2023: Feeling the digital pulse of the future

  • 6 stages - 250 speakers - 300 partners - 2 million sqm: 50,000 visitors experience Cologne as a digital hotspot
  • On stage: actor and human rights activist George Clooney, ABBA icon Björn Ulvaeus, futurist Amy Webb  
  • Next Digital X will take place in September 2024

Digitalization at your fingertips: 50,000 visitors experienced two days full of innovations and forward-looking visions at Digital X 2023. Whether it was medicines from 3D printers, excavator control via VR glasses or autonomous swimming garbage collectors: The event presented itself as a vibrant digital hotspot with 6 stages, 250 inspiring speakers and 300 partners on an area of 2 million square meters in downtown Cologne. Among them were prominent guests such as actor George Clooney, ABBA legend Björn Ulvaeus and futurist Amy Webb. 

Hagen Rickmann: " Humanness is irreplaceable"

" Digitalization is more than technology. Digitalization needs people. This is precisely where the Digital X initiative comes in - we want to inspire and demonstrate the opportunities in a practical way," said Hagen Rickmann, patron of the Digital X initiative and Director Business Telekom Deutschland, at the opening of the mega-event. Digital X sees itself as a platform that guides companies in every industry on the path to digitalization. The focus, he said, is on sharg the steps and experiences on the path to transformation - whether as newcomers or digital pioneers.

Tim Höttges urges digitalization strategy for Germany

Digital X showed the potential of AI, virtual reality, metaverse or 5G, explained Tim Höttges, Chief Executive Officer of Deutsche Telekom, at the start of the event. He emphasized: "We have to go the way of 'Good to Great' and develop radical transparency and a comprehensive digitalization strategy for our location."

Amy Webb: Germany must start leading the digitalization process now

American futurist Amy Webb also had clear words to say about the business location Germany. In an interview with Claudia Nemat, Deutsche Telekom Board member for Technology and Innovation, the founder and CEO of the Future Today Institute warned against just passively watching current developments: "Innovation is crucial for the survival of companies," said Webb. Also necessary for this: framework conditions, such as less bureaucracy. Claudia Nemat welcomed this approach and called for more "German self-confidence" instead of "German Angst". After all, Digital X allowed to experience how well Germany can succeed in innovative digitalization. 

George Clooney: Digitally documenting crimes in the Ukraine War

U.S. actor George Clooney has been involved in climate protection and human rights for many years. "In a current project of our Foundation for Justice, we are using digital tools to track what is happening in terms of human rights violations in the war in Ukraine," Clooney explained. "This monitoring should help ensure that atrocities come to justice as quickly as possible and that the perpetrators are punished."

Björn Ulvaeus: The original behind the ABBA avatar live in Cologne

ABBA co-founder Björn Ulvaeus explained how the band's digital avatar concerts were implemented in London. At the same time, however, he made it clear on stage: "Today it's really me speaking to you." Using music as an example, he gave a vivid account of the relationship between humans and artificial intelligence and sees AI as a helper in the creative process, opening up new artistic worlds for him. 

No one embodies the Digital X 2023 motto "Be digital. Stay human." as much as Neil Harbisson. In Cologne, the British artist spoke about his experiences as a cyborg and how digitization has helped him perceive colors that were previously hidden from him as a color-blind person. His implanted antenna enables him to see both visible and invisible colors.

Up close and personal with robots and painting without paint splashes 

In addition to the crowd-pulling presentations, Digital X also featured a variety of digital solutions that visitors could try out for themselves. At the "Robotic Playground", robotic arms animated visitors to jump rope. Another robotic arm created large, colorful soap bubbles. And yet another chiseled out of white marble a meter-sized billy goat, mascot of 1. FC Köln.

Elsewhere, visitors to Digital X were immersed in a virtual painting room. VR can be used to simulate the painting of vehicle parts. The VR glasses signal when the wrong steps are taken or too much paint is applied. Visitors were also able to practice maintenance work on a large excavator via virtual simulation - in an excavator cab from Komatsu with an app for VR training and 3D applications on a VR platform.

Equal eSports Festival and Telekom Street Gig as part of Digital X

More than 6,000 gamers came to the Rheinterrassen in Cologne and experienced a two-day eSports festival. A special highlight was the Equal eSports Cup, the first tournament exclusively for women and non-binary players.

On the evening of the first day of Digial X, Thirty Seconds To Mars delivered an impressive show in Cologne's Mediapark. The US band performed as the highlight in an exclusive setting in front of more than 3,000 fans. For the crowning moment, lead singer Jared Leto brought around a hundred fans on stage and sang the final song "Closer to the Edge" with them, while brother Shannon set the beat on the drums.

The next Digital X will take place in September 2024.

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