The concept of a launch evokes varying imagery. A NASA rocket exploding into other space, an Olympic Shot-put star striving for records and even events ran by new initiatives that want to strike a chord with the community they intend to serve. In the case of the latter, launches often come with nerves, excitement and a sense of adventure. AI NI was created to help create a central focal point for the artificial intelligence community in this country, bring together academics, start-ups, industry leaders and enthusiasts to help propel the AI activity in Northern Ireland. AI NI 1, our launch event was the first step to enable this, lets recap what happened!

Well, What Happened?

Gilliam Armstrong spoke about humanising computers using conversational AI, touching on the historical ramifications that defined how came to interact with computers in the way are familiar. Gillian then explored how through chat, we could create a new paradigm for how we interact with machines and transforms services. This talk dived into both UX and the phycology that drives conversational interfaces. Chatbots are becoming more and more prominent in our day to day world, Gillian perfectly illustrated the value of this approach for engaging customers and improving user experiences with software.

Adam Askew from Phillips discussed how his team transitioned from using more traditional Machine Learning techniques to leveraging Deep Learning in the medical domain for image classification. This is a topic that would strike a chord with a lot of organisations exploring this space, Adam presented the topic in a humorous and engaging way, helping to lift some of the mystery behind deep learning.

Eye tracking using AI techniques is a fascinating topic, one that Raymond Bond from Ulster University was investigating in the context of determining performance of medical practitioners based on the characteristics demonstrated in their eye movements. Raymond presented a host of compelling results, shining a light on the power of the eyes as a analytical tool to derive further insights. His talk certainly inspired discussion following the event, leading to compelling collaboration opportunities.

Mykola Galushka then took the stage as part of our ‘start-up spotlight’ discussing the ground breaking work his company Auromind are driving in the medical space (drug discovery). He presented his state of the art drug discovery pipeline that had been build on top of modern day cloud architecture while discussing the inherent challenges in his target domain. This was a fascinating talk that touched upon some bleeding edge concepts in AI, showing how they can be creatively applied to existing problems – Only if you have the right skills and point of view to find these challenges, Mykola certainly has both.

Getting into AI is tough isn’t it? Rachel Coulter took the stage to discuss her experiences about building an AI skillset. This began with her discussing her initial full AI exploration, through the Kainos AI Camp programme which both gave her the tools and motivation to pursue projects and further work in this area. Rachel brought a human view to this journey, showing that while it may be daunting – the right support makes it possible to dip your toes into this highly complex arena.

the event concluded with a panel discussion, moderated by Austin Tanney where they discussed a host of topics that are on the forefront of the AI theatre in Northern Ireland.

AI NI 1 was a massive a success, but it would not be possible without the Eagle Labs, Kainos and Digital Catapult Northern Ireland. This created the space for this community to exist and now following the launch event, it will continue to grow and to thrive.


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