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Another fortnight, another set of amazing advances in AI!

AI wins at Hide and Seek using teamwork / AI generated images to replace stock photos? / AI in New Zealand’s Contact Centre sector

Kia ora readers,

Another fortnight, another set of amazing advances in AI!

Last week, you may have caught the news (and great videos!) that researchers at AI firm OpenAI trained agents in a simple game of hide-and-seek simulated in a virtual environment. The agents learned increasingly sophisticated ways to hide from and seek each other, and furthermore learned ‘teamwork’ and complex tool use.  Results from tests show that two agent teams in competition self-improved at a rate faster than any single agent. They successfully learned to use increasingly complex tools to win the game. Learning by competition is one of the emerging paradigms in AI and resembles how human skills and knowledge have evolved over millennia. Fascinating research.

Meanwhile, examples of 100,000 free AI generated faces and AI generated full body images have sprung up online  during the last week. This generative technology will have immediate impacts on the modelling and stock photo industries.

Closer to home, last week I joined  AI Forum members Mahsa Mohaghegh and Lena Waizenegger (AUT), Issy Fernando (IBM NZ) and Victor Yuen (UneeQ,formerly FaceMe) spoke on a panel at the Contact Centre Institute of New Zealand’s (CCINZ) annual conference. It was a wide ranging conversation covering many of the rapid innovations that are happening with conversational AI systems in contact centres and customer experience. Perhaps the most pertinent question from the audience centred on whether New Zealand organisations are actively upskilling their staff in the face of AI and automation. An audience member described how customer service roles are becoming  more complex and high pressure as a result of technology change, but salaries do not appear to be increasing. Are New Zealand organisations actively investing in their staff to continually improve the customer experience or just pocketing cash savings from automation? No doubt, this debate will continue… Thank you to the conference organiser Chris Lakatani’s team and all attendees at CCINZ for the warm welcome!

This week, I participated in a workshop with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) in Auckland to prepare a high level scope for the Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) for the Digital Sector. Our recent publication Towards Our Intelligent Future advocates for AI to be a core component of all the ITPs currently in development. Once there is an initial framework in place, consultation and feedback sessions will happen throughout New Zealand to ensure that the New Zealand tech sector continues to grow successfully together. I am currently on my way to pre-Brexit London to attend the third Partnership on AI all-partners meeting. Aotearoa continues to actively contribute to the PAI’s work and the PAI continues to play a highly valuable role ensuring the connectivity and policy effectiveness of the global AI ecosystem.  This was illustrated in their recent call for Visa Accessibility Globally to Accelerate Responsible AI Development.

Finally, my friend Kit Hindin was in Germany this week and visited the newly opened Futurium Museum of the Future in Berlin. We need one of these in Aotearoa!

Ngā mihi nui,



Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd is currently touring New Zealand with public lectures on the effect of the digital revolution on law. Remaining events include 25 September in Dunedin and 2 October in Auckland.

Save the date for AI in Agritech on 30 October in Christchurch. Join us at the 2019 TIN Report Launch and Awards on 31 October in Auckland. Attend the Future of 3DP in MedTech on 1 October in Christchurch.

Last year Massey University researchers explored the impact of AI on public relations. Now they are examining the extent to which AI redefines organisational boundaries. To report your experience, please contact Dr Chris Galloway.

Standards New Zealand is looking for digital entrepreneurs with ideas for how to use standards content in new ways to make it more useful for those who put them into practice. Learn more. Plus, have you joined the free online platform Scale-Up New Zealand?

Advancing Digital IT and Law is 25-26 November in Auckland. Advancing Women in Technical Industries and Roles is 25 November in Auckland. Watch the new #TechWomenNZ series online and learn how they kick started their tech careers.

Join the New Zealand IoT Alliance at the 2019 IoT Half-Day Conference on 3 October in Auckland. Learn how blockchain is solving real business problems at the InsurTechNZ Connect event on 9 October in Auckland.

CERT’s Cyber Smart Week is 14-18 October. Sign up as an official partner and check out the free resources. The 2019 NZ Cyber Security Summit and the 2019 NZ Digital Identity Summit will be held in Wellington on 16 October. 

The Future of Learning is 30 September – 1 October in Christchurch. NetHui 2019 is 3-4 October in Wellington. ITx Rutherford is 9-11 October in Nelson. Attend SWITCH Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology 11-13 November.

Closing dates: Applications for Deloitte’s inaugural Corporate Entrepreneur Awards close 27 September. 29 September for Inventing the Future 2019. Callaghan’s RFP for incubators with deep tech commercialisation experience closes 4 October.

Save these 2020 dates: Register your interest for New Zealand’s first medicinal cannabis summit, MedCan 2020 on 19 March.

The International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems is 9-13 May. The AI for Good Global Summit is also scheduled for May.

TechLeaders recently met with Minister Jones to discuss how to accelerate digital advancement in provincial New Zealand. Read the briefing paper here. Plus, learn how AI can make a positive impact on New Zealand’s economy, society and wellbeing.

Have you joined the free online platform Scale-Up New Zealand?

AI Forum The AI Forum brings together New Zealand’s artificial intelligence community, working together to harness the power of AI technologies to enable a prosperous, inclusive and thriving future New Zealand.