prg.ai newsletter #22: Autonomous drones to aerotaxis – AI takes on mobility
March was busy at prg.ai: we organised the Spring School of AI, closed applications to the prg.ai Minor, and collected a long list of upcoming events. The Prague AI scene is swarming with new exciting projects – read all about them in our latest newsletter.
🇺🇦 Resources for Ukraine
The ongoing Ukrainian crisis affects all of us. In hopes of connecting volunteers and opportunities with those that need them most, we have compiled a list of national and international resources in support of the Ukrainian cause and its displaced people.
Many companies have been opening up to Ukrainian refugees, offering long- and short-term work opportunities for those looking for a job in the Czech Republic. The Czech Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs runs a helpful database of work opportunities, and StartupJobs has compiled a #StandWithUkraine directory of job listings without Czech language requirements. Tailored career tips can also be found on Career Designer’s new Ukraine section as well as in the UA Talents job listing directory.
Academic institutions are also ready to welcome Ukrainian researchers. University of Hradec Králové offers academic positions in their Informatics Department, and the Institute of Molecular and Translational Medicine in Olomouc offers trainee positions to doctoral students and researchers. More information for arriving Ukrainian scientists can be found here.
If you’re looking for places to donate money, miscellaneous supplies, or even cryptocurrency, check out the Stojíme za Ukrajinou website for resources, or consider donating through Charles University’s Ukraine fund. You can also donate your time or skill and contribute in the online domain: Sara Polak and Česko.Digital coordinate a national volunteer campaign supporting Ukraine in cyberspace alongside Česko.Digital, and CTU’s FIT facilitates the Informatics Against War initiative which unites students for various technological projects against violence. In case you’re looking for international resources in a similar vein, Sifted has collected a list detailing the available options.
To ease communication between Czechs and Ukrainians in need, ÚFAL has extended their award-winning machine translation system by a Czech-Ukrainian model: a helpful resource especially when navigating the constant flow of information. ML Prague is also planning to donate 20 tickets to Ukrainian students regardless of their situation or location. If interested in attending the conference free of charge and hone their technical skills, students should contact email@example.com.
🏡 What’s new at prg.ai
AI Academy organises Spring School of AI
In the first week of March, we organised a Spring School of AI for high school students as part of our AI Academy project. This time, enthusiastic students gathered at the Smíchov Secondary technical school, eager to deepen the knowledge they acquired during a two-week tuition under the guidance of Jiří Materna from Machine Learning College during our Summer School last August. The follow-up Spring School of AI went deeper in selected areas of machine learning and programming, and students tried out a number of practical applications. For the school headmaster, Radko Sáblík, hands-on experience and mutual sharing of knowledge across cohorts are absolutely vital – the school is planning a Laboratory for Artificial Intelligence exactly for these purposes.
“We organise Summer and Spring Schools of AI with high hopes of enthusing high school students with artificial intelligence, and motivating them to pursue it further. So far we have been successful,” said Jiří Materna. “If I were a student again, I would not hesitate to join – it’s a great chance to get a head start in today’s technological age,” adds Vít Šimral, councillor for education, sport, science and business, on behalf of the co-organizing City of Prague.
New horizons for prg.ai Minor
In the past week, we concluded the application period for next academic year’s cohort of prg.ai Minor, collecting 88 new applications! The programme’s academic guarantors are hard at work selecting the next cohort and preparing to launch prg.ai Minor into the new year. If you’d like to learn more about what prg.ai Minor entails and how it could help you kick off your career, we have released a new interview with programme graduate Václav Maixner on prg.ai Journal — go check it out!
In the meantime, current prg.ai Minor students got to attend a guest lecture by Pavel Kordík, CEO of Recombee and Vice-Dean for industry collaboration at CTU’s FIT. He detailed the intricacies of recommender systems, taking students through his area of expertise and taking their questions. We’re working on a more detailed write-up for the event, coming to our website soon.
🎭 Events we’re excited about
30 Mar, DEX Innovation Centre: Meet the partners for Industry 4.0
The DEX Innovation Centre connects companies interested in implementing Industry 4.0 technologies and companies that help implement these services. The aim of this event is to pres ent the possibilities offered by smart technology, connect individual actors, and inspire new collaborations.
31 Mar, Conference: Robots do not want to stay silent – AI speaks and writes for Czech Radio
Automation and robotization is shaping many domains of society, and shows no signs of stopping. Czech Republic’s biggest radio station introduces AI into its programme, too, using synthetic voice and machine-generated content to fill its airways. This upcoming conference will welcome radio professionals as well as the interested public to discuss latest developments in technology uptake across Czech radio stations, focusing primarily on voice synthesis.
7 Apr, BrightTalk: Launderbots, or why your AML is no longer fit for purpose
Bots snapping up limited edition sneakers aren’t just after the resale markup: they’re doing it to launder money. Criminals already leverage automation and AI to break down traditional barriers between fraud and financial crime. The upcoming session with Resistant AI experts will discuss how to tackle automation in the service of financial crime.
7 Apr, Adastra: Digitalization in manufacturing – From strategy to implementation
From the first thought to successful implementation, how to tackle manufacturing and logistics challenges and digitalization as a holistic strategy? Join Blindspot and Adastra experts at their manufacturing webinar that will cover topics such as artificial intelligence in capacity planning, anomaly detection, optimization, or utilisation of big data. Register below to join the free webinar through Microsoft Teams.
14 Apr, AI in context of medicine – Petr Kajzar
AI is already altering various practices in the field of medicine, including medical research, diagnosis, and patient care. Petr Kajzar from Charles University’s first medical faculty will dive into the details, explaining the promises as well as dangers of deploying algorithms in healthcare as part of MFF’s AI in context seminar series.
24 Apr, AICzechia: Matej Hoffmann – Biologically inspired robot body models and self-calibration
Mechanical design specifications provide the basis for robot models, inspiring their fixed kinematic and dynamic mappings. However, there are many sources of inaccuracies, and the stiffness of materials limits the range of possibilities. This planned talk will establish differences between body representations in the human brain and robot body models, and assess the possibilities for learning robot models in biologically inspired ways.
28 Apr, AI in context of religion – František Štěch
The AI in context series organised at Charles University’s MFF continues with an exploration of artificial intelligence and religion, courtesy of František Štěch. The series consists of guest lectures as well as discussion seminars for those looking to explore the topics in more profound and interactive ways.
29 Apr, ICLR 2022: From Cells to Societies – Collective Learning Across Scales
Focused on collective learning, the workshop covers a topic that is slowly but surely gaining momentum. In particular, the event will investigate natural systems for deeper insights into the mechanisms underlying adaptation and learning, assessing their potential to further AI development. A star-packed interdisciplinary panel of researchers active in the private as well as public sphere will ensure you’ll hear some interesting new insights into what constitutes cognition and intelligence.
10 May, Theme Development Workshops (TDW) – AI for Future Manufacturing
The aim of TDWs is to put together stakeholders, large and small, active in a particular sector that can be empowered with AI. Their meeting will try to define the most promising and emerging AI topics as input for the European AI Roadmap which shall help the European Commission in navigation through long-term strategic topics. Prof. Vladimír Mařík from CIIRC CTU and Prof. Wolfgang Wahlster will share their thoughts as keynote speakers.
27 – 29 May, Machine Learning Prague
ML Prague brings you the biggest European conference about ML, AI and Deep Learning applications organised in person in Prague as well as online. You can look forward to an excellent lineup of 45 international experts in ML and AI business and academic applications, presenting advanced practical talks, hands-on workshops and other forms of interactive content to you.
👏 Members’ news that makes us proud
Cyberattacks targeting companies and start-ups are on the rise: solid cybersecurity measures are important especially because information is usually one of the company’s most valuable assets. In his latest interview, Avast CTO and prg.ai board member Michal Pěchouček discusses the most common types of attacks, most effective methods of protection, and potential future trends in the field of cybersecurity.
Reading traffic signs and registration numbers, identifying fast-moving objects, keeping cars in lane or preventing collisions — all that and more can now be done by semi-autonomous driving systems, thanks partly to the work of CTU’s researchers. A team of hard-working scientists headed by Professor Matas works with Toyota Motor Corporation to ensure their cars’ systems are up to par, using state of the art AI and ML techniques. Their current work focuses mainly on automatic detection of potential threats, be it unexpected cyclists, environmental obstacles, or even just falling ice.
Prague’s new INDRC institute, founded at CTU’s CIIRC, is planning to bring AI and neurology to the global stage. “While tackling Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, or strokes, we are oftentimes limited by human boundaries. Artificial intelligence, if approached correctly, can expand our current limits and open new opportunities for research and treatment,” notes INDRC founder Vít Dočkal.
CTU’s Faculty of Electrical Engineering, specifically its AI Planning Group, is celebrating success on the international stage of the AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence! Daniel Fišer was recently awarded the AAAI2022 Honorable Mention Oustanding Paper Award, amounting to a 2nd place among this year’s best submissions. Alongside co-authors from Universität des Saarlandes and Aalborg Universitet, Dan Fišer tackled basic research into the Operator-Potential Heuristics for Symbolic Search. The article was recognised among papers of the highest standard and best technical contribution: you can download the paper if you’re interested.
What is the future of urban mobility? Experts at CTU’s FEE have a vision. Under the leadership of Dr Martin Hromčík, they are developing the systems needed for the very first Czech aerotaxi capable of vertical start. The project has been nicknamed Zuri and is planned to be marketed by a start-up of the same name. Zuri and its other VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) counterparts can set off vertically just like helicopters, only they have the potential to be more efficient, quieter, and powered by electricity.
And Czech expertise regarding the future of mobility is apparent abroad, as well: members of CTU FEE’s eForce student team have presented their insights at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, sharing their experiences with the local Full Blue Racing team based at the Department of Engineering. Aside from presenting their unique vehicle, the team organised a nine-part series of lectures and workshops detailing the designs and technologies needed to build an electric formula car at Cambridge. Aside from allowing students to exchange valuable tips and ideas, the event also strengthened ongoing collaborations between Czech Technical University and Cambridge University, which currently occupies a prestigious top-3 spot in international QS Rankings.
Robotic drones and pilotless helicopters equipped with on-board artificial intelligence are assisting the restoration of Olomouc’s famous St Moritz Church. The drone fleet is developed and powered by the Multi-Robot Systems group at CTU’s FEE as part of their unique Dronument project, supported by Czech Ministry of Culture and Národní památkový ústav. On FEE’s website you can watch a video detailing the drone-enabled process of capturing precious historical interieurs of the church.
Apple AirTags and other location-tracking devices are a useful tool when it comes to locating misplaced items or even missing people. Yet in the hands of stalkers or criminals, these can be easily weaponized. How can we maintain privacy standards and guarantee fairness? Jakub Mareček’s new research at AI Center FEE CTU featured in a new article offers potential solutions.
Czech startup Rekenber aims to secure the most efficient path for debtors to return back to economic life. And it has been successful – recently, it secured an investment of 12 million crowns entrusted by Česká spořitelna’s Seed Starter. Renbeker’s founder, Peter Zvirinský, has been working on the topic of transparent and fair insolvencies since 2013: the idea originated at CUNI’s MFF from academic research supervised by doc. Iveta Mrázová. Another interesting project with tremendous potential for social good is Point For Help, which produces portable visual business cards for getting help when you are on the move, without a phone, battery or interpreting a request for help. The technology is particularly suitable for Ukrainian refugees and other professionals in need.
Recombee has just unveiled brand new features, including content recommendation rows inspired by Netflix, infinite scroll personalisation, more advanced personalised search, and more efficient integration. And other companies aren’t wasting time, either: Dronetag, a start-up focused on ensuring the safety of drone operation and low-altitude air traffic, has recently been awarded the ‘space Oscars’. Founded by graduates of CTU’s Faculty of Information Technology, the company helps produce affordable and reliable drone-tagging devices, receiving praise for their efforts to make the European airspace safer and better organised.
Researchers from FIT CTU, in cooperation with the Brno University of Technology and CESNET association, are currently researching new ways of monitoring encrypted data in high-speed computer networks without the need to decrypt them and invade users’ privacy by reading their data on end devices. The project concerns analysis of encrypted traffic using network flows, and is supported by Czech Republic’s Ministry of the Interior.
📍 From the local AI scene
Erste Group’s Seed Starter opens Start-up Bootcamps
Česká spořitelna’s Seed Starter announced a new Bootcamp programme, a two-day event full of intensive training sessions for new founders and companies. The fund has been busy recently, investing into three promising start-ups in the new year: and more exciting projects are coming.
📰 Stuff that interests us
- Civil society calls on the EU to ban predictive AI systems in policing and criminal justice in the AI Act (article)
- Ukraine has started using Clearview AI’s facial recognition during war (report)
- DeepMind: Predicting the past with Ithaca (article)
- New York Times: ‘No Code’ Brings the Power of AI to the Masses (article)
- Deepfake Zelenskyy surrender video is the ‘first intentionally used’ in Ukraine war (report)
- The 2022 AI Index: AI’s Ethical Growing Pains (report)
🧩 AI/ML sources we recommend
Learn with CTU’s podcasts: Ones and Zeros & Science without censorship
Are you in the market for a new podcast to expand your horizons while driving to work or washing your dishes? Look no further – CTU’s experts are producing not one, but two interesting podcasts for your entertainment. Opt for Ones and Zeros if you’re in the mood to join Sara Polak in exploring various nooks and crannies of information technology, and for Science without censorship if you’re in the mood to explore the ‘back-stage’ of academia.
DeepMind’s Learning Resources
Whether you’re a student, teacher, young professional, or just a curious observer, DeepMind has you covered – their comprehensive list of learning resources spans various topics and educational levels. Additionally, consider checking out the AtHomeWithAI Curated Resource List, which is full of useful tips and resources on various topics across machine learning, robotics, natural language processing, safety, ethics, neuroscience, and many more.
MFF is publishing a series of insightful articles with the aim to introduce you to the core basics of machine learning. Adapted from the work of Jan Řeháček, the texts are accessible, engaging, and split into various chapters covering the core knowledge topics needed to start exploring the complex world of machine learning.
📢 Community calls
Hack for a good cause
GreenHack 2022 is an international hackathon tackling big issues in the field of sustainable development including climate change, overconsumption, irresponsible production and poor resource management. We believe technology and smart policy design can be key to solving 21st century issues. Will you give it a try? The two-day event starts on May 20 and is sponsored by the European Commission, Czech Ministry of the Environment, and Prague City Hall as part of EU Green Week 2022. Gather a team or take up the challenge on your own: you can register here.
💼 Open job positions
Infrastructure / Site Reliability Engineer (SRE)
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