AI: Unleashing technology to create a better world

At New Zealand’s inaugural AI-Day, speakers from around the world and New Zealand including Microsoft, Westpac, Amazon and Soul Machines, tackled a range of big questions around Artificial Intelligence (AI). They discussed how AI is being used today and how it can take our world into the future.

The opportunity AI presents our world

With AI technology widely available today, Steve Guggenheimer, Corporate Vice President – AI Business at Microsoft explored the opportunities AI presents, how it will impact your business, customer experiences and workforce productivity.

Guggenheimer credits three trends with speeding up the development of AI; we have more data then we have ever had, therefore data scientists can now get access to the scale they need to run their models, and cloud technology has enabled the storage of this data.

So, what does this mean for technology in our world? Microsoft AI is starting to infuse AI into its products and is working on a new generation of business solutions. These solutions are designed solely to enhance accessibility and user experience. Translation subtitles added as a feature to PowerPoint are an example of AI being integrated into current products.

Developing an AI Capability in New Zealand

Developing AI capability starts with learning about the possibilities, technology, skill sets, developing partnerships and identifying business opportunities. Dawie Olivier, Chief Information Officer at Westpac believes New Zealand has an advantage in the "AI race" due to our engrained culture of ingenuity, innovation and our population size facilitating interconnectivity.

New Zealand start up Ohmio make autonomous shuttles and benefit from not having to work with legacy systems and the bureaucracy of large organisations.  Ohmio vehicles are world-leading in their technology and capabilities. The vehicles are fully electric to reduce emissions, and the innovative safety and powerful navigational technologies built using AI will ultimately reduce fatalities at the hands of human drivers on our roads.

The Cacophony project comes from one New Zealanders dream of making our natural environment 100% predator-free. Traditional tools used to kill predators require significant manual work and are not very accurate. The project’s AI-driven tracking cameras are enabling them to produce a device that can activate a kill method without the need for a predator to enter a trap.

AI for the benefit of People and Society

As AI technology impacts business and our lives, the effect on society becomes increasingly significant. It is imperative to remember that AI can also be used for the advancement and protection of our physical and technological world. 

According to Sean Lyons, Chief Technology Officer at Netsafe “The Internet is a scary place full of scary people” this is why they are working to combat cybercrime using AI and a good helping of humor. Rescam, a chatbot that “scams the scammers” used Natural Language Processing (NLP) to reply to phishing emails and the scammers unwittingly end up spending time trying to engage a robot, instead of a human being.

Alayna Van Dervort, Tecnhology for Social Impact Engagement Manager at Amazon, is tasked with facilitating projects that use AI for social good. These initiatives can be found within many Silicon Valley tech giants. Amazon and others have recognised that unfortunately technology has made it easier to exploit children. They’ve developed a program that uses facial recognition to help fight sex trafficking.

While AI is accessible today the future promises a challenging and exciting period of change. According to Adam Cutler from IBM we need to embrace AI to get higher quality outcomes faster than humanly possible. It must be designed to solve a specific problem.

He states human needs aren't changing, but the tools we have access to are.  The truth is machines will only truly be accepted once AI is seamlessly integrated into our lives, resulting in robots no longer being seen as a threat but as an entity that improve our world.

AI-Day was an inspiring event that encouraged many conversations about the richness and depth AI has the potential to add to our digital experiences. For the first time in New Zealand, showcasing a wide range of organisations, from near and far, who are leading the way into the future with one overarching message – AI is here, it’s time to get on board.

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