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No longer Sci-Fi, AI is something NZ needs to discuss

24 May 2017

Artificial Intelligence has the potential to change the way humans interact with technology. It is already leading innovation everywhere from education to service industries.    The first ever New Zealand AI Forum will launch in a few weeks, having recognised the need to be able to share learning and hold critical discussions about the ways it will affect the country.    Tech leader Stu Christie will chair the forum and says, for those who aren’t familiar with AI, now’s the time to learn.    “For those who don’t know, AI is the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behaviour. More specifically, the development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.   “The rapid development of AI technologies presents innumerable opportunities and challenges for New Zealand. The forum is being launched to aid the direction of government policy, build base capability relevant to a future-state economy and drive positive social and economic outcomes for all New Zealanders.”   Christie says the purpose of the forum will be to ensure the country’s AI ecosystems are supported and prosperous.   “Our key purpose will be to actively contribute to the prosperity of New Zealand through advancing New Zealand’s AI awareness and capability. We want to identify strategic opportunities for economic growth.”   Having this level of discussion will hopefully encourage more New Zealand companies and initiatives to implement AI and put us on the map. Kiwis are already breaking ground in this field, says Christie.    “NZ's leading AI company Soul Machines is an outstanding example of world class cognitive computing. They really are the human interface of computing and have great application across a wide variety of industries.   “A great example of AI from a Kiwi company is the soundtrack company Booktrack co-founded by Paul Cameron. They have a large digital library of ambient sounds and music that is synchronised and overlaid into digital books [...] AI technologies enabled Booktrack to dramatically reduce the cost of its production.”   As the country becomes more technologically driven, and New Zealand’s tech industry continues to boom, strategies will need to emerge in answer to this change, says Christie.    “Other countries are building national strategies. We, like them, need to understand what our core competencies and competitive advantages are to be able to effectively operate in the future state new economy.”   The first forum will be launched Wednesday 7 June in Wellington and will gather tech users, firms, academia and representatives of the government to connect and look to the future.

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