prg.ai newsletter #24: The future of innovation in Prague and beyond
What will Prague be like in 2030? While for most of us that may be a mystery, there are plenty of interesting projects — and people — with their sights set on the future of AI and digitalisation. Our May newsletter brings you a taste of the diverse project pursuing innovative visions of education, manufacturing, entrepreneurship, urban governance, and art.
🏡 What’s new at prg.ai
Our unique report maps the Prague AI scene
Our long-running mission is to turn Prague into a European centre of artificial intelligence. To achieve this goal, however, we needed data — lots of them. To thoroughly understand the needs and ambitions of the local innovation ecosystem, we decided to invest our energy into mapping the local AI company landscape, getting to know the relevant players, and gaining insight into the size of the local market and its mechanics. The result of our work is the first ever study of its kind, which we decided to publish in a comprehensive form that is accessible to industry professionals, journalists and the public alike, titled Mapping of the Prague AI company scene. You can read and download the whole report here: we hope it will provide not only a lot of substantive information, but also perhaps spark some inspiration or give you interesting food for thought.
Showing high schoolers the broad range of careers in tech
We are honoured to have been approached by Nadání a dovednosti to participate in their ROZHLED project again this month, allowing us to take part in a career mentoring programme helping young people make the right career choices and develop their talents and skills. Three inquisitive and generally rather impressive highschoolers Kamila, Jakub and Jakub got not only a peek into our operations, programmes and plans, but they also got real insight into the world of robotic perception and conversational AI from researchers from the Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics and Cybernetics Vladimír Smutný a Jan Šedivý. We can only hope that we have fuelled their interest in technology and inspired them toward taking part in endeavours that have a positive impact on the world.
Get ready for the Lviv-Prague Data Science School
prg.ai is very happy to partner with the Lviv-Prague Data Science Summer School this year, allowing undergraduates, PhD candidates, and young professionals to come together to sharpen their skills and acquire practice-oriented knowledge of data science, machine learning, and its use in the domains of Computer Vision, Natural Language Processing, Healthcare, Social Network Analysis, and Urban Data Science, among other fields. The event will take place between July 18th and 30th at the Czech Technical University in Prague: we’re already looking forward to hosting our international guests. You can apply here, the early application deadline is approaching on June 13th.
Blindspot Solutions teaches prg.ai Minor students about optimisation
Our flagship programme prg.ai Minor is not only about providing access to some of the best AI courses at 4 faculties, but also about giving the students regular opportunities to learn from our stellar industry members to understand the complexities of applying machine learning and AI in practice. In May it was Blindspot Solutions who decided to share their learnings and experience from the challenging world of optimisation. CEO Ondřej Vaněk showed how the company addressed several business cases from logistics or inspection scheduling with valuable solutions. Senior optimisation engineer Petr Eichler then delved into the mathematical framework used to describe an optimization problem and discussed a few algorithms able to solve large-scale optimization problems. As always, the event was concluded by refreshments and networking, this time accompanied by a breathtaking sunset.
Prague of 2030? Innovative, internationally renowned, and digital
May 24th was dedicated to discussing Prague’s innovative vision, thanks to an event organised by Pražský inovační institut. Local experts, academics, and entrepreneurs came together to devise a unified innovation strategy to take Prague into 2030: and we couldn’t afford to miss it. During a panel dedicated to AI & Digitalisation, prg.ai director Lukáš Kačena engaged knowledgeable panellists including Jaromír Beránek from the Prague IT & Smart City Committee, Benedikt Kotmel from Operátor ICT, Vice-Rector of Charles University Tomáš Skopal, Recombee’s Gabriela Takáčová, and Daniel Ondrůj from Škoda Auto Digital Lab. In case you missed the event, you can watch a full recording of it on YouTube.
🎭 Events we’re excited about
The Prague AI scene is swarming with interesting events! To always stay up to date, consider subscribing to our Google calendar which we continually curate to ensure you never miss an interesting opportunity.
1 – 2 Jun, Smart Vehicle Day with Valeo
This year’s edition of Smart Vehicle Day is planned for Wednesday 1st June and Thursday 2nd June, opening the doors of Valeo’s state-of-the-art research and development centre in Strašnice. You can look forward to trying out cars, sensors, lasers and cameras which enable autonomous driving, explore the development of software and hardware, and see various new technologies and their testing grounds with your own eyes. Register below to attend the event starting at 16:00.
5. Jun, 17th Robotics Day 2022
After a two-year pandemic pause, the largest amateur robotics festival in the Czech Republic is back in its full glory. Alongside many other activities brought by researchers affiliated with CUNI’s MFF, nine competitions await amateur robotics enthusiasts and their creations. Join the festivities in the Prague Congress Centre from 10 am to 5 pm on June 5th.
8 – 9 Jun, Czechoslovak Technology Summit 2022
The biggest Czechoslovak networking event around themes of cybersecurity, IT, and artificial intelligence is set to take place this June. Thanks to the support of EDIH consortia from Czech Republic and Slovakia, the two-day event will unite computer science experts as well as other renowned personalities of the European innovation scene, providing opportunities to set up new collaborations among local experts and European digital innovation hubs.
9. Jun, Prague Computer Science Seminar: Lukáš Sekanina – Evolutionary Design of Approximate Digital Circuits
Approximate computing exploits the fact that there are many error-resilient applications (such as image processing, deep learning, and data mining) in which the quality of the result can be traded for energy. Lukáš Sekanina’s lecture will present a design automation method capable of creating high-quality implementations of approximate digital circuits, followed by an insightful discussion.
10 – 12 Jun, WebExpo 2022
This year’s WebExpo expects to host 1700 attendees and 70 speakers, across 5 conference halls: you won’t want to miss it. Use the opportunity to level up your skills and get ready to play at the top of your game when it comes to all-things deep tech, web development, digital design, product management, and marketing. With the discount code ‘friends’ you can get 15% off your ticket, too!
17 Jun, AI: When a robot writes a play – performance and discussion
This June, you have a unique opportunity to experience a fragment from the life of AI through its own words, attending and discussing a play written by GPT-2. The performance strides the boundary between an absurd dark comedy and an existential drama, presenting a story of a robot whose creator has left it to face society alone. The performance will be followed by a discussion of the show’s creative process during project THEaiTRE.
28 – 29 Jun, The MAMA AI ACADEMY
Would you like to learn something practical about artificial intelligence directly from the source? Get your hands on AI and build something right away? Get your hands dirty and feel like you‘ve created something really useful? Apply for the 2 half-day academy that will provide you with an introduction into artificial intelligence and practical AI for voice processing and help you dig deeper into Business AI and practical AI for document processing.
6 – 8 Jul, 14th International Workshop on Self-Organising Maps and Learning Vector Quantization, Clustering and Data Visualisation (WSOM+ 2022)
WSOM+ invites contributions related to the theoretical and methodological aspects of unsupervised learning, self-organising maps, learning vector quantization, clustering, and data visualisation and other closely related topics. The call for papers is open too, encouraging submission of papers that demonstrate the use of the aforementioned methods and models across disciplines and diverse areas of research.
6 – 8 Jul, IAV Symposium 2022
The 11th IFAC Symposium on Intelligent Autonomous Vehicles aims to provide an opportunity to present and discuss research and development work in the general area of intelligent autonomous vehicles. Researchers and practitioners in the field of land, air, and marine robotics will be brought together to discuss common problems of theoretical and practical applications, describe scientific and commercial applications, and explore the possibilities for future research.
👏 Members’ news that makes us proud
How much do you know about the state-of-the-art of technology and security? The Czech Ministry of Defence is producing a series of educational videos showcasing the wide range of technologies developed by Czech experts, showing off their various handy use-cases. The first instalment presents the fascinating world of robotics and autonomous systems and illustrates the evolution from Karel Čapek first coining the word ‘robot’ in 1920 to CTU-CRAS developing autonomous machines to help explore dangerous underground spaces. You can follow the series on YouTube in both English and Czech: stay tuned for more videos coming each week and covering more fascinating fields including AI, cyber security, and aerospace systems.
Science popularisation is an important endeavour: state-of-the-art technological advancements are getting developed at Prague research institutions as we speak, and it’s only right that the public learn about them. If you’re on the market for a reliable science popularisation source to add to your media diet, consider subscribing to the podcast Věda bez cenzury, which is hosted by Jindřiška Deckerová and Michaela Urbanovská — two PhD candidates affiliated with CTU FEL’s AI Centre unafraid to reveal a behind-the-scenes view of scientific research and academic life. The latest episode featured our very own Lenka Kučerová, who discussed prg.ai’s origins and its current activities at the intersection of business and academia: you can find it on Apple Podcasts or Youtube.
The DataSentics team has won the GreenHack Hackathon, impressing the judges with their ML-based solution for quality control of transmission towers. You can explore their project in more detail in their YouTube video presenting the idea and its potential execution, using agile drones instead of fuel-thirsty helicopters to ensure better maintenance of electrical grids. Congratulations to the team, which included Václav Maixner, a graduate of prg.ai Minor!
A similar vision is also pursued by the Multi-robot systems group from CTU’s FEE as part of the European Aerial-Core project: researchers are developing robots and drones which could assist ČEPS in inspecting inaccessible electrical grids, making the process more efficient and less demanding on both workers and the environment. The deployment is already underway near Beroun, where MRS deployed its first test flight and successfully tested the capabilities of both its software and hardware while inspecting high-voltage power lines.
With conflict in Ukraine still ongoing, many of us are encountering the Ukrainian language much more than before. Luckily, AI is here to ensure translation makes for one less thing to worry about, since the automatic translator between Czech and Ukrainian developed by Charles University‘s ÚFAL at MFF is now available as an app for Android systems! The project employs the award-winning LINDAT/CLARIAH-CZ research infrastructure, which you can now put through its paces yourself. It can work with both text and voice and spell words phonetically to make communication easier — download the app named Charles Translator for Ukraine from the Google Play app store to try it out.
You can now also try out more of Recombee’s services and see them in live action: the Recombee team have released new demos of their media site and webshop capabilities on YouTube, highlighting the diverse potential of harnessing AI for content recommendations and personalisation. Our sincere thanks also go to Recombee Chief Business Officer Gabriela Takáčová, who joined our panel about the future of AI in Prague as a representative of small and medium-sized companies at the helm of AI and ML deployment. You can watch a recording of our discussion with her and other industry and academia representatives here.
If you’re still harbouring curiosity about the intriguing world of cryptography, CTU’s FIT has just the right tip for you: the Faculty has released their recordings of talks by distinguished guest lecturers visiting Prague from the Netherlands’ Radboud University. From the comfort of your home, you can benefit from the world-class expertise of Joan Daemen explaining permutation-based cryptography, and Lejla Batina outlining the threats posed by deep learning and physical attacks on embedded systems. These recordings present a unique opportunity to learn from top experts: a testament to the quality of his talk, Joan Daemen is one of the two authors of the well-known AES/Rijndael cipher used for data security for over two decades.
The news of Czech projects marrying AI and performance art travel fast: and now, the THEaiTRE project is ready to impress audiences over the Atlantic. Švandovo divadlo’s ‘AI: When a robot writes a play’ will travel to the USA, set to perform both its current piece as well as a brand new piece written by GPT-2. The show will celebrate the Czech diaspora in Chicago and then travel to New York for a world premiere of their second play written by AI. We’re looking forward to experiencing the new performances ourselves!
📍 From the local AI scene
Splunk opens a new Centre of Excellence in Prague
The San Francisco based IT company Splunk which focuses on searching, monitoring, and analysing machine-generated data has opened its newest Centre of Excellence in Prague. The company was drawn to the creative potential of the Czech innovation ecosystem, recognising Czech Republic as “a trusted source for the talent that drives success”.
Data start-up Manta impresses international investors
Manta, a Czech data observability start-up based in Prague, shone bright on the international start-up scene this month with announcements of their impressive investments of over 800 million crowns. Their successful Series B was led by Forestay Capital alongside Credo Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, SAP.io a Senovo, and was even joined by Avast co-founder Eduard Kučera. Manta is planning to use its new funds to expand its current 152-person workforce to 220 by the end of the year.
Czech ex-DeepMinders employ AI to optimise crypto investing
Martin Schmid, Rudolf Kadlec and Matěj Moravčík, formerly employed by the AI-research juggernaut DeepMind, have come back to Prague to set up EquiLibre Technologies, a new company focused on using game theory and reinforcement learning to improve algorithmic trading. With a star-studded advisory board, the start-up is set to explore AI in the context of algorithmic and blockchain investing from Prague, potentially attracting international tech talent to the metropolis.
📰 Stuff that interests us
- Pavel Kordík: Jak algoritmy doporučují obsah na internetu? (podcast, in Czech)
- Four successful Horizon Europe projects for the Slovak Kempelen Institute for Intelligent Technologies (article)
- Hugging Face raised $40 million dollars for its NLP library (article)
- Researchers discover a new method to break down plastic in weeks, not centuries (article)
🧩 ML/AI sources we recommend
DeepLearning.AI’s Machine Learning Course
DeepLearning.AI led by Andrew Ng in cooperation with Stanford Online are opening an expanded and updated successor to their online Machine Learning course. The extension is set to open for the first time in June: you can sign up for the waitlist here or browse more of their AI and ML related online courses and resources.
📢 Community calls
Take part in this year’s HUMAIN Conference
Brno.ai and its university partners invite you to participate in the third annual HUMAIN Conference taking place on the 22nd of October, which will once again connect artificial intelligence with design, arts, and the humanities. Organised as a one-day interdisciplinary conference, the event welcomes technical experts, academics, students as well as members of the general public. This year’s theme will cover themes as diverse as AI & well-being, AI & co-creation/co-performance, and AI & sustainability – if you’re interested in either of these, consider submitting your abstract to email@example.com and sign up to participate.
AI for kids is looking for new lecturers
Perk up: aside from raising finances for a new textbook, AI for kids is also looking for new instructors for its educational pilot project bringing artificial intelligence to primary schools. If you’re interested in education and keen to help children explore the fascinating world of new technologies, this opportunity may be perfect for you! One day a month, you’ll guide schoolchildren through Scratch and explain the basics of artificial intelligence. If you’re interested, send your CV and brief motivational statement (of max. 200 words) to Eva Nečasová at firstname.lastname@example.org by 15 June 2022.
💼 Open job positions
Infrastructure / Site Reliability Engineer (SRE)
Postdoctoral Researcher in Semantically-Guided Natural Language Generation
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AI is attracting companies, prg.ai intends to meet demand with new partnership concept
- press release - The artificial intelligence platform prg.ai is opening up to companies outside the industry. The consulting company EY, the law firm KROUPAHELÁN and the pharmaceutical manufacturer Zentiva became partners of prg.ai in early 2023. What unites these at-first-glance different partners is that even if they don't have a business built around AI, they are best suited to be leaders in their industries in its adoption and use.