It’s an AI World!
A Brief round up from the #AIWolrdExpo in San Francisco
On Nov 7th, the AI World Expo kicked off in a week that had many international conferences occurring. After making the choice to forego Web Summit in Lisbon for this event , it was evident that the level of quality of content, attendees and hands on innovation in the #AIWorld Expo made it the ideal event for AI innovators, thought leaders and adopters. The concentration of hand-selected vendors who were pre-screened rigorously, and the agenda made the event a great launchpad to build new relationships, get some face time with pioneers, and spend quality time discussing the interests of each vendor seeking a competitive edge. It was an interesting outcome and dynamic for a group of people fascinated with and specializing in artificial interactions, chat bots, autonomous learning and IoT!
To kick things off, highly engaging panelists representing the venture community discussed how difficult it was to tap into the mainstream of AI. It’s new and hard to gauge. Many have, often the investors, showcase technology was at cutting edge, and they pressed the ideals of former analyst views about who and what will be the next big thing. This created an interesting dialogue for the first day and encouraged the VC community to rethink their own checklists as this new paradigm resets the rules. It was clearly something that was hard to evaluate as the notion of AI, the use cases, potential for scalability, and more importantly, the risk, had not been truly evaluated. If there were going to be a group of innovators who had the right mix of academic and commercial leadership it would be this group. No doubt the pace was fast, and the focus and dedication of many we met was beyond mainstream – refreshing from the general beat.
The Mean, Median and Mode
As we reflect on the hyper dynamic group of innovators, researchers, and companies we met, the best way to navigate this space is looking at three common areas that this space can be segmented into– all playing a key role in how this space will evolve. We (verve.ai) mentioned #AugmentedIntelligence in October 2014, and this was repeated at IBM’s World of Watson (#WOW) in Las Vegas, and was the position now taken by IBM. It’s exciting to see how many will also follow suit.
During the event, this tweet became a pervasive retweet and summed up clear learnings from the event:
4 takeaways from yesterday’s #AIWorld?
① #AI is the new #UI
② AI is the new website
③ #Bots are the new #apps
④ #Telcos are behind on AI
The Mean: Highly dynamic and well versed attendees
The show itself had a great mix of speakers, and were timed in slots in the day that really helped expose the entire audience and engage them for the different streams that followed. With the vendor expo nicely placed between the different stages, it created a great learning and highly engaging environment. The companies, researchers, vendors and analysts that were there reminded me the most important part of any conference is the synergy amongst all attendees.
During the AI Startup Lightning Session, developed and moderated by Steve Ardire, with panelists representing Verizon Ventures, Eleven Two Capital and Comet Labs, the gap was evident between some of the ventures community’s expectations and value criteria vs. the business cases that AI and this new wave of technology that could drive into the marketplace. In reflection and discussions with attendees, the gaps of venture firms in how they place weight on repeatable sales models, use case analysis, and real understanding of the technology behind the use cases was apparent.
In one example, Intraspexion a company that has a fierce set of legal and tech leaders who were solving a specific problem that today is augmented by mounting junior lawyers’ time and stacking billable hours, presented a methodology using AI that could change the framework, something most see as foreign. But for those in the audience who live and breathe this, it was applauded.
Needless to say, AI, machine learning, deep learning and so on is hard and the key is being aware of the business technology strategy it solves. Companies that weighed in revealed what made them persevere. That was the hybrid framework of core technology AND core domain expertise. We saw this set of values echoed at the Future of Finance conference, where Financial Institutions were expressing their huge desires for alternative ways in finding this talent.
The rest of the Lightning Panel represented the vertical aspects and niches that have validated a business model beyond hype – this ‘mean’ is where I think the next wave of investors will be able to sift through the hype and place their bets in hybrid companies who solve a real world business problem. More to come on this subject as we unveil more context around the ‘Holy Grail’.
Michael Chiu from McKinsey provided a pragmatic view on the automation activities and what the future holds. He dispelled the myths about the eventual “Terminator” world but instead brought to light practical scenarios that allowed for the stitching of AI technologies to diminish silos in business functions and across companies. The Rise of Robots should not be feared.
Here are some further notable speakers and attendees met that were an integral part of the conference from our experience: Michael Chiu, McKinsey and AI’s Impact our future; Tamer Rashad, Humtap (disrupting music creation); Mounir Shita of Kimera Systems (taking AI to the eventual next level of Artificial General Intelligence).
We apologize for not highlighting everyone, and encourage anyone reading this to visit the AiworldExpo to see the complete list of trailblazers who will make a difference.
The Median: Good commercial use cases
As mentioned, there were a handful of innovators who were able to go beyond the horizontal play. A conversation with Matt Abrams, a long term expert in the machine intelligence space, likes to say that
10% of all vendors claiming AI and machine learning are all hype because they miss the use case
We were impressed with the level of use cases that the vendor ecosystem has created in this event. It was fascinating to see, and the mix of use cases were applicable across multiple verticals, – all pushing the boundaries on how we evolve as businesses. Palo Alto based AI Brain, had taken their ability to create natural workflow in tech and couple it with their fascinating first generation toy car model equipped with voice, facial and object recognition – perfect for the holidays. It presented a social shift in perception and visual learning.
Another company, taking incremental changes to an existing online customer service model, was Inbenta a company I have personally followed after meeting their founder Jordi Torras in 2013. They have really taken a powerful way of expanding their core competency and offered best in class solutions for their customers.
On Tuesday at the Executive Roundtable on the State of AI speaker Stephen Pratt of Noodle.ai mentioned the gap among current senior executives: those who know what they need vs those who don’t and even referenced the same context of ‘The haves and have nots’ – this being integral for all who want to embrace this technology. Orchestration, however has to go beyond traditional research firms, and it was good to see that even communities from PWC, Tata, Deloitte and Fujitsu were open to learning how this will impact their traditional frameworks.
The Mode: Chat bots were the talk of the town
The most common and most mature area in this space are the chat bots, a too familiar evolution when it comes to the outsources customer support paradigm. For many vendors who fit in this space, we thought we would highlight the tremendous work put out by CogniCor. Founded by Dr. Sindhu Joseph, she and her team came prepared with answers that go beyond the impacts of bots, but how they can morph and take on a cognitive discipline in most organizations. This was important as we, at verve.ai, presented the impact of user personas and how it can shed some insight into how bots interact with our customers.
Both companies highlighted the need to resolve the customer support requirements yet connect and associate the level of engagement and satisfaction post experience in near time to optimize the value created. This level of differentiation was echoed by a few speakers when mention of the value chain in today’s organization surfaced as they take on automation, and cognitive abilities. The currency that is most valued when considering these shifts is customer engagement, affinity and how to garner the attention in a world where everyone is bombarded with content.
Women you say?
It wouldn’t be a tech event if the topic of women were not referenced and the lack thereof of thought leaders. As much as I personally tend to overlook this being in tech for over 15 years, it was refreshing to see that this was indeed talked about. Conference Co-Chair and VP at LUX Research, Mark Bunger stated quite boldly:
Nobody should attend a conference if there is not in fact at least one women on the panel
Despite the leaders of IBM, Oracle, and Pepsi all having women at the helm, I must admit, it was hard for many to appreciate how many females were leading technologists, developing their own voice and narrative. The gap was evident, however what made A! World stand out for me was less about the ratio and how much opportunity was there to see peers in this space. There were many leaders such as, Maria Grineva, Christina Messdaghi, Dr Catherine Havasi, Pilar Machon, Beena Ammanath to name a few.
I am inspired by the trailblazers who have put down roots to make it easier for the next generation. These women don’t tout their gender and are pervasive in their innovation capabilities. This is integral for inspiring to fill the gap.
It is too often, I come across women who self promote the gap, but do not use their means to alter the gap. They generally promote radical change without impact. It was nice to see organizations introduced to the community, and the advocates contributing. Thank you Lolita M Taub and Linda Bernardi.
Was AIWorld worthy of its Inaugural Success?
Like all events we attend or get invited to, the final question is: Would you recommend this event next year? Absolutely. Attending AI World Expo is a definite value-add to companies in this space who want to network with peers, meet the early adopters and also get a glimpse at research and real ROI in concepts commercialized. It attracts a good group of attendees which guarantees a high level of interaction and time to establish relationships.
Kudos to the team and it was a pleasure to meet and interact with everyone.
To learn more or see the presentation about Brand Relevance and Augmented Intelligence, email me Dalia@verve.ai or Hessie@verve.ai.
For those attending/participating at AI Summit in NYC Dec 1, take the time to say hi.