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AI Forum

A win for Aotearoa and AI

Congratulations Team New Zealand on winning the America’s Cup! A fantastic win for New Zealand and equally a win for AI! Augmenting AI with human brilliance is exactly the balance we should be striving for and it is perfectly demonstrated by the team’s experience and competitive edge gained during the training and development. An innovative approach called deep reinforcement learning helped create an AI, or bot, sailor that could learn dynamically through continuous feedback. 

“When you start, the AI agent knows nothing and learns by trial and error using countless variables—wind speed, direction, adjustments to the 14 different sail and boat controls—and is refined again and again,” explains Nic Hohn, one of the key project leaders. 

“Since the bot keeps experimenting, if you coach it to learn in the right way, it compresses into hours what would take a human years to understand.”

The use of AI allowed testing and design to be more scalable and sped the cycles of design iterations considerably by taking human sailors schedules out of the mix and gave the ability to test designs 24/7. Read more here.

If you haven’t heard already, due to recent alert level challenges, we have postponed the Aotearoa AI Summit to 12 May. We received overwhelming feedback that delegates preferred to meet in person rather than virtually. There is important work to share and be involved with, so it is vital we commit to bringing our community together. Same venue, same brilliant programme, just a different date!

We are very fortunate to have Jennifer Marsman delivering Microsoft’s keynote presentation Using AI to mine unstructured research papers to fight Covid-19. Jennifer is the Principal Software Engineer Lead of the Grok AI group on the Cognitive Search team at Microsoft, where she is focused on applying machine learning to unstructured data. Previously at Microsoft, Jennifer was the Principal Engineer of the AI for Earth team, where she used data science, machine learning, and AI to aid with clean water, agriculture, biodiversity and climate change. Jennifer was also a software developer in Microsoft’s Natural Interactive Services division, where she earned two patents for her work in search and data mining algorithms. 

With such a jam packed programme and the unique ability to come together, you shouldn’t miss out on what is set to be an inspiring day. During March, buy one in-person ticket to the Aotearoa AI Summit and get a free virtual ticket for a colleague! Join New Zealand’s AI community on 12 May. This offer expires 31 March.

Call for mentors for MBIE’s Space Agency Hackathon

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) Space Agency is excited to be partnering with Maxar Technologies to host the TakiWaehere Geospatial Hackathon on 17-18 April 2021. University students will be challenged to work collaboratively and build new, efficient solutions to address some of New Zealand’s most pressing challenges. This is a fantastic opportunity for students to develop their data science skills. By leveraging high-resolution satellite imagery and developing analytics to reveal useful patterns, change detections and other insights, teams will create solutions that provide powerful, actionable information.

Teams can address one of the priority challenges identified by government agencies, or flex their creativity in providing their own challenge using the data provided. Registered teams will receive training and then compete over a weekend using the provided data for the chance to win prizes.

We are calling on our members to offer mentorship to the students, so share your experience by emailing

Throughout 2021, we are hosting regular events, so please join us on 20 April in Wellington for Building Ecological Intelligence with AI. We will host leading AI experts Dr Will Koning and Professor Stephen Marsland who will share their experiences and latest developments.

Professor Stephen Marsland will provide an overview of the AviaNZ Project: Making Sure New Zealand’s Birds are Heard. The project is a collaboration between mathematicians, data scientists and conservation biologists to enable acoustic recordings of birdsong to be turned into reliable estimates of abundance.

Dr Will Koning will discuss Keen AI: Remote Sensing of Important and Invasive Plant Species using Machine Learning and High-Resolution Photography. He will present the findings of an InnovateUK funded pilot and how this approach could be beneficial in Aotearoa.

The power of AI is known to be impressive, but even more so when it is applied to helping our environment. There will be networking opportunities before and after the event, allowing our AI community to connect, collaborate and be inspired. Special thanks to Statistics NZ for hosting this event. Tickets are free to AI Forum members but please register early to guarantee a spot!

Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua.


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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.