prg.ai newsletter #21: Pushing the boundaries of Czech academia
From exciting academic competitions to new labs promising advances in multiple research areas, academia has set out into 2022 on the right foot. Read about recent successes and opportunities you shouldn’t miss in our February newsletter.
🏡 What’s new at prg.ai
Elements of AI reaches CTU and VŠE
We have great news: in addition to Charles University, undergraduate students at four faculties of the Czech Technical University as well as the Faculty of International Relations at the Prague University of Economics and Business can now complete the Elements of AI online course and receive 2 ECTS toward their degree.
You can find more detailed information covering how to register for the course and how to make sure your credits are recognised in the internal information system of your university. You can also complete the course in your free time if you’re interested: if you’re looking to broaden your horizons by the basics of artificial intelligence and machine learning, you can sign up for free at elementsofai.cz.
Get to know prg.ai Minor
Yet that’s not all: university students, listen up! As the application period of the prg.ai Minor is coming up later this March, we are partnering with Career Market to bring you an opportunity to learn more about the inter-university programme and all the extracurricular opportunities it holds. You will have a chance to e-meet our programme coordinator, Julie Kovaříková, as well as Michal Bodický, recent prg.ai Minor graduate, and ask them all your lingering questions about the programme and community. The event is planned for March 1, starting at 16:00, register to attend in this form by February 28.
prg.ai efforts garner attention
Artificial intelligence is gaining mainstream attention. In the Czech Republic it has been the case also thanks to our AI-popularisator-in-chief, Sara Polak, who has been recognised as part of the Forbes 30 under 30 this year. You can read about her diverse endeavours at the intersection of AI and argeology in Forbes or even Vogue CS. Yet prg.ai is lucky to rely on more great communications talent which helps get the Prague AI scene the attention it deserves. Most recently, we welcomed Aneta Caltová to our team, who will be working with all-things PR and communications. We’re happy to have her on board!
🎭 Events we’re excited about
10 Mar, BrightTALK: How not to get burned when choosing AI for financial crime protection
AI is the ultimate buzzword, holding the promise to revolutionise everything, including financial crime and its prevention. But not all AI is created equal, and leveraging the wrong tools for the job can cost you dearly in time, effort, and money. Resistant AI CEO Martin Rehak will teach you how to navigate through the buzz, pick the right vendors, and what you need to change to be successful when implementing AI.
10 Mar, AI in the context of Ethics – David Černý
The Charles University’s Institute for Formal and Applied Linguistics is preparing a series of lectures and discussion seminars with the goal of putting AI into context. Distinguished experts will introduce their audience to the intersection of AI and various other academic disciplines, including art, law, ethics, security, and philosophy. In the first session of March, David Černý will be discussing the implications new technology such as AI may have for the ancient discipline of Ethics.
15 Mar, RICAIP Training: Planning & Deployment of Sensitive Robot Applications
In mid-March, a training led by Dr. Ing. Ali Kanso will introduce force-controlled applications and their motivation in the domain of robotics. Participants will learn about robotic sensitive applications, methods to design appropriate measuring concepts, and possibilities of designing controllers that can achieve ideal sensitivity for each desired process. And it will be hands-on, too: most presented methods will be validated on a real demonstrator.
23 Mar, Discussion Forum: Best ways to finance R&D
You can look forward to a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses attached to various forms of financial support, a reflection on the needs of companies when implementing Industry 4.0, and a deliberation over the most appropriate forms of state support. The NCP4.0 is striving to foster an open conversation inspired by the lived experience of companies active in the Czech innovation ecosystem.
24 Mar, BrightTALK: Know Your Customer, Kill Your Robot
100,000 fraudulent applications in 3 days — all managed by one person with a script? Welcome to the new reality of identity fraud. And it’s not just a numbers game: each piece of fraudulent content has never been more sophisticated, but creating it has never been easier. In another edition of BrightTALK, Resistant AI experts discuss the role of automation in preventing KYC fraud in the finance industry.
24 Mar, AI in the context of journalism – Veronika Macková
In the second instalment of Matfyz’ AI in Context series of lectures and discussion seminars, Veronika Macková will be discussing the potential benefits as well as threats that AI may pose for modern journalism. If you’re interested in putting recent strides in AI development into the broader context of our current information economy, don’t miss this talk or the discussion seminar that follows.
27 – 29 May, Machine Learning Prague 2022
You can look forward to an excellent lineup of 45 international experts in machine learning and artificial intelligence, who will be discussing both business and academic applications of disruptive technologies at the upcoming ML Prague 2022. They will prepare advanced practical talks, hands-on workshops, and other forms of interactive content to you all in the span of 3 knowledge-packed days.
👏 Members’ news that makes us proud
Martin Rehák believes that AI is here to help real humans make decisions. According to his extensive experience, the combination of human and artificial intelligence outperforms either alone — especially when it comes to security. His Resistant AI counts itself among our industrial members and works to protect automated financial systems from manipulation, fraud, and financial crime. They use machine learning to spot emerging threats: flag fraudulent documents, monitor suspicious transactions, and detect money laundering. Their expertise has been getting them the spotlight in the past few weeks, including articles in AI Magazine and Finance Derivative you can read if you’re interested in AI’s application in the financial sector.
We’re happy to report that Jindřiška Deckerová won the IT SPY 2021 Competition as the first woman in the award’s history. She was recognised for her outstanding thesis on Generalized Routing Problems with Continuous Neighborhoods. And another success celebrated Ondřej Dušek, affiliated with CUNI’s Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, has received a prestigious Starting Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) for his research on Natural language generation. Future users can look forward to new research that improves virtual voice assistants by the likes of Amazon’s Alexa to speak Czech much more fluently, as well as other data-processing applications helping parse out complex datasets.
In case you’d like to get inspired by some more inventive entrepreneurial applications of algorithms to diverse industries, check out Blindspot Solutions’ latest blog post about their Optimus 4.0 platform. Throughout the text, they introduce a number of use-cases from human resources management, to operational capacity planning or transport logistics, and demonstrate how optimisation can make the processes more resilient, faster, and often also more profitable. In addition, Blindspot released the latest ADASTRA podcast episode, where their CTO Štěpán Kopřiva discusses some of the most interesting projects to date across logistics, retail, process optimisation, or customer service.
What makes a great university city? There are many variables to consider, including the friendliness of the local community, opportunities for entertainment, quality of academic institutions, and affordability. A new global study organised by The Campus Advisor assessed these elements and more, and found Prague to be one of the world’s top ten cities for students. The Czech capital ranked seventh overall, and third-highest in the European Union, closely tailing Vienna and Berlin.
And Czech students were also celebrated at the global EXPO 2020 in Dubai this year, where visitors could admire eForce’s Driverless DV.01 model, designed and built by students at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering CTU. The DV.01 driver-less Formula car is the first fully autonomous vehicle developed in the Czech Republic, and counts itself among the first in all of Europe. It uses LiDar sensors, stereo-cameras, and advanced computing algorithms to navigate without a driver, and can reach astonishing speeds: from 0 to 100 km/h in 2.9 seconds.
Do you have your public transport pass or car keys on hand? And are you confident that you know how to protect them from hacker attacks? The ever-accelerating development of modern technologies increases the demands on their protection, also among students at CTU’s FIT. In the Embedded Security Laboratory, students learn how to protect various types of smart devices from cybersecurity breaches. Thanks to new laboratory equipment, they can now try out different types of crypto-analytic attacks and learn how to identify security threats and defend against them effectively in practice.
As it scales its ambitions for robotics research, CTU’s Faculty of Information Technology has opened a new Robotic Agent Laboratory, so-called RoboAgeLab. The space will be dedicated to the study of so-called robotic agents: robots or autonomous machines that must work with many other robotic counterparts in order to accomplish a task that one robot alone would not be able to do. Programming them is not easy: researchers must teach them to work together, avoid collisions, and cooperate as opposed to compete. With the new lab opening, students will have a chance to participate in the process, taking part in projects which coordinate over 100 robots at a time.
A new e-learning app named Tichý jazyk will help social workers, educators, and other participants to simplify their study of sign language. The app, which was created in collaboration between FIT CTU and the non-profit organisation Silent World, contains over 3,700 short videos with words and sentences in sign language and an alphabetically sorted Video Dictionary. The application is directly connected to the existing e-learning system for the best possible learning experience.
When computer science and criminology meet, an exciting cybercrime investigation is born. Security researchers at AI Center FEE CTU uncovered an Android banking botnet and explored the world of underground attackers, informal online forums, and the economy of encrypting malware-as-a-service. Read about their 5-year-long investigation in AI Centre’s blog post. AI Center also recently organised a seminar where Martin Schmid introduced the Player of Games, a general-purpose algorithm for large perfect and imperfect information games. You can watch a recording of the event and learn from the insights of the co-founder of Equilibre Technologies and ex-DeepMind research scientist.
📍 From the local AI scene
Deepnote raises millions in Series A
Prague-based start-up named Deepnote has raised $20M to streamline the work of data teams through their collaborative data science notebooks. Their generous Series A led by international investors, including Accel and Index Ventures, will help them build the best-in-class tool for analysts and data scientists — and hopefully lure some bright data science talent to their Prague office.
1000th global unicorn is Czech
Productboard raised $125M in Series D funding last month, promising to scale its leading product management platform to help companies build new digital products. In doing so, the company exceeded a billion-dollar valuation, making it the second Czech ‘unicorn’ and thousandth-overall on the global stage. Congratulations!
📰 Stuff that interests us
- State of play on AI and cooperation from the perspective of the Czech Republic (article).
- We don’t want to lose any more talent, claims IT specialist Dita Formánková (article, in Czech).
- Andrew Ng’s Unbiggen AI: it’s time for smart-sized, “data-centric” solutions to big issues (article).
- Forbes’ 7 Biggest Artificial Intelligence (AI) Trends In 2022 (article).
- Jan Romportl on AI-powered assistants (article, in Czech).
- The US Department of Defense is issuing AI ethics guidelines for tech contractors (article).
🧩 ML/AI sources we recommend
NCP4.0 Inovacast with Vladimír Mařík
Every Thursday you can look forward to a new insightful episode of the podcast produced by the National Center for Industry 4.0, which will introduce key figures of Czech innovation and discuss important challenges which lie ahead. The first episode featured CTU CIIRC’s Vladimír Mařík, one of the forefront Czech AI pioneers, who detailed the very beginnings of Industry 4.0 in the Czech Republic: give the episode a listen.
Stanford MLSys Seminar Series
What challenges does industry face when deploying machine learning systems in the real world, and how can academia rise to meet those challenges? This weekly seminar series looks at the frontier of machine learning systems, and how machine learning changes the modern programming stack. It curates a curriculum of admirable work in ML systems and opens other engaging research questions.
This software integrates into your existing Python database and estimates the amount of carbon dioxide produced by the cloud or personal computing resources used to execute your code. Its main objectives are to help programmers lessen their carbon emissions by optimising code or by hosting their cloud infrastructure in geographical regions that use renewable energy.
📢 Community calls
EuroTeQ Engineering University Survey
Do you care what university education future engineers receive in the upcoming years? If so, spare 10 minutes and participate in EuroTeQ’s survey. In it, we’re looking for your expert insights about the skills needed for the future of engineering education. You can participate in the survey here: results will be used to adapt existing and develop new engineering courses to better equip engineers for the tasks of tomorrow. It will be considered by universities throughout the EuroTeq Engineering University Network, in the Czech Republic and abroad.
Join CLAIRE’s Rising Researchers Network
CLAIRE recently announced the launch of CLAIRE’s Rising Researchers Network (R2 Network), bringing together Ph.D. candidates and postdoctoral researchers and selected Master students involved in AI research across all of Europe. Members of the R2Network all across Europe will have the chance to support each other in early-career research and decisions, collaborate, and share experiences with other students with similar interests. If you are interested, write a short message to firstname.lastname@example.org and start the application process!
Technological Literacy Olympics
Are you a curious student looking to prove your technological prowess outside the classroom? Or are you a teacher searching for new opportunities and resources for your enterprising students? Technologická gramotnost is set to organise a competition aimed at boosting technological literacy and empowering young innovators. If that sounds interesting, you can find the relevant details here — applications close on 27 March.
💼 Open job positions
Charles University – Faculty of Mathematics and Physics
Industry Collaboration Specialist
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