newsletter #28: A new generation takes on artificial intelligence research

This November, it’s a promising young AI professional everywhere you look! This latest issue of newsletter highlights a whole host of awards, grants, and projects that focus on supporting a new generation of scientists and entrepreneurs. It also lists all the events you shouldn’t miss in your Christmas-shopping haste, and touches on recent controversies that animate the global AI industry.

🏡 What’s new at

Michael Bowling meets the heart of Prague’s AI community

November also saw the latest meetup which gathered over 180 local AI experts, entrepreneurs, academics and students under one roof. Featuring an international highlight in the form of a keynote lecture by Michael Bowling of University of Alberta, it has been a great opportunity for AI professionals to reconnect.

The event gathered a diverse line-up of academics, entrepreneurs, students, start-up founders, AI experts and industry researchers. Participants were able to discuss Professor Bowling’s insights into hindsight rationality, exchange insights into their own fields, and revive old bonds – as well as forge new ones. Our thanks go out to partners who made this event possible, namely CzechInvest, DataSentics, Recombee, and Impulse Ventures, as well as FIT CTU for lending us its impressive premises.

You can have a look at a short video from the event produced by DataSentics: we loved seeing so many happy faces and already look forward to the next event! You can also look out for a recording of Michael Bowling’s guest lecture coming to our YouTube channel soon, and look forward to a short writeup on Journal as well.

During's November meetup, Michael Bowling presented his research into hindsight rationality.
During’s November meetup, Michael Bowling presented his research into hindsight rationality. Minor Industry Talk: Jan Bím on tailoring artificial intelligence

Our Industry Talks are an essential part of the Minor experience for students: during these regularly-scheduled guest lectures, they get to meet an inspiring industry professional, explore the opportunities in AI practice, and get their practical questions answered. This month, hosted Jan Bím, AI Team Lead at Datamole, who highlighted the broad range of problems AI can tackle, especially if expertly tailored to the specific needs of a business use-case. 

His presentation went over the entire AI life-cycle starting from initial ideas and ending with practical deployment, detailing why the best model may not present the best practical solution, and why elaborate knowledge about cows, microscopes and radars can be essential to an AI scientist. The event took place in the beautiful premises of 42 Prague and featured an informal Q&A and networking session over drinks and pizzas. Looking forward to the next one already!

Helping businesses make the best of artificial intelligence

On Wednesday November 9th, and the Prague innovation institute hosted a workshop about artificial intelligence, machine learning, and their implementation in business. During the event speakers from various industries and companies – including Blindspot Solutions, Datamole, ČSOB, and Zentiva – shared their experience from endeavours dealing with food & beverages, pharmaceuticals, logistics, finance and more.

It was great to connect experts from various fields to discuss, share and learn about how AI and ML can prove helpful for business and public service alike. Participants got the chance to get inspired by and network with business leaders from other industries. To catch up on the insights, you can soon watch a recording of the event online, and we look forward to seeing you in-person during our upcoming series of similar workshops at Kampus Hybernská. meets the Finnish Minister of Transport and Communications

While is primarily focused on developing the local innovation scene, it is not afraid to delve into choppy international waters, either. Most recently, representatives have attended a fruitful meeting with Timo Harakka, Finnish Minister of Transport and Communications, as well as Hannu Kyröläinen, the Finnish Ambassador to the Czech Republic. As a local partner, provides international delegations with unique insights into the local AI ecosystem and works toward ensuring strategic partnerships across borders as well as within them. During our November meeting with Finnish representatives, we discussed the Elements of AI course created in Finland and presented the Prague AI research and company scene. representatives met with the Finnish Ambassador to the Czech Republic. representatives met with the Finnish Minister of Transport and Communications as well as the Finnish Ambassador to the Czech Republic.

Interview with Marek Rosa: In search of artificial intelligence

Questions surrounding the feasibility of general artificial intelligence still divide AI experts. Can an autonomous system come anywhere close to human intelligence and versatility? Marek Rosa, CEO of GoodAI, believes that it is not only possible, but also desirable. To develop and study general artificial intelligence, he leads GoodAI and founded an international fund sponsoring researchers around the world. If you’d like to read more about the hopes and controversies surrounding general artificial intelligence, you can find the full interview on Journal, available in both English and Czech language versions. members meet to discuss future plans

The beginning of November saw the meeting of all’s industrial, institutional and academic members and their representatives. During the meeting, we summarised our 2022 activities, discussed some exciting plans for months ahead, and focused closer attention on some bigger upcoming projects, including the anticipated Master programme.

Prague hosts the European Big Data Value Forum

As November came to an end, Prague welcomed the renowned international conference named European Big Data Value Forum, bearing a sub-title ‘At the heart of the ecosystem for data and AI’. During its three-day programme, director Lukáš Kačena helped prepare the seminars and led a panel discussion which aimed to help practitioners ‘Strengthen Data & AI synergies to improve smart cities’ services facing new climate and societal challenges’. The views and experiences from Czech Republic’s capital were represented by Tomáš Barczi, director of Operátor ICT.

🎭 Events we’re excited about

1 – 14 December, Technological Days with EIT Manufacturing, CTU & NCP4.0

During the first weeks of December, you will have the chance to choose from a wide range of training workshops tailored to Czech companies focused on the practical use of digital tools in production to increase efficiency and flexibility. Experts from CTU will also share their know-how at the intersection of advanced production and cutting-edge technologies including robotics, production technologies, data science or process optimization.

1 Dec, EU – Webinar: IP and Artificial Intelligence (Advanced)

Would you like to be confident you can identify valuable intellectual property and effectively protect it internationally? This seminar is designed to help you better understand the European IP landscape for innovations in artificial intelligence, identify potential legal issues, and navigate the transatlantic differences in IP regulation. The presentation will last 60 minutes, with 15 more dedicated to Q&As. 

6 Dec, AICzechia – Radim Polčák: Regulating AI: Compliance, Liability, Rights to Data and the Search for Ponder Stibbons

Recently, there has been a significant shift in the EU’s general approach to the regulation of development and deployment of AI-based products and services. To help you navigate the transnational regulatory landscape, AICzechia will organise a seminar about AI ex ante as well as ex post AI regulation led by Radim Polčák, Vice-Rector of Masaryk University and Head of MU’s Institute of Law and Technology. 

7 – 8 Dec, PFAI 2022: Philosophy for Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence and machine learning have begun to profoundly transform our way of thinking and use of language. At the same time, the term „artificial intelligence“ is often used in a misguided way as a hollowed-out idol that raises many unrealistic expectations. The aim of the workshop is not only a philosophical reflection on the current implementation of AI, but also an attempt to offer philosophical methods and theories that can be useful for the development of trustworthy and beneficial AI. If you’d like to join the dialogue between philosophers, computer scientists and AI developers, sign up below. 

8 Dec, Jan Zibner: Seminar – AI in context of IP law

This instalment of ÚFAL MFF CUNI’s AI in context seminar series will be dedicated to introducing students to the intricacies of intellectual property law and its intersection with new technologies. The guest lecture will also be followed by a discussion seminar led by Tereza Hannemann, during which interested attendees will be able to go into even more detail. 

13 Dec, AI: When a robot writes a play

What do robots think about, what do they feel, and how do they experience the world? Can automated systems even express any of that, anyway? This innovative and futuristic play introduces you to the internal life of a robot portrayed in its own words. On this date, the performance will be followed by a discussion and debate with AI experts and creators of the play. 

14 Dec, Mathematical problems for non-mathematicians: Matěj Čamaj (Ematiq) about deciding methods in practice

MFF CUNI brings you another instalment of its seminar series which aims to introduce fascinating mathematical conundrums even to those who gave up on math in high school. In December, Matěj Čamal from EmatiQ, an algorithmic trading company, will introduce the complexities of introducing algorithmic decision-making into real-life situations and markets. 

👏 Members’ news that makes us proud

In the face of highly-anticipated EU regulations, what technological and legal changes are in store for AI algorithms? This question was addressed by the researchers active within the international project AutoFair, who met at FEE CTU in October. As artificial intelligence gets increasingly influential, the challenge for policy makers, innovators and researchers is to make AI algorithms compatible with humans as well as pre-existing social frameworks. The official launch of the $95 million Horizon Europe project brought together a number of interesting insights from research and practice. In Prague, it connected interdisciplinary professionals including members of the European Parliament, European Commission, Czech National Bank, Israeli Technion, French BNP Paribas, and IBM Research, as well as software companies such as Workable, Avast, or Dateio.

A three-member team of MFF CUNI students represented Charles University at the global finals of the prestigious ICPC (International Collegiate Programming Contest). The global final took place between November 7th to 10th in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and welcomed the best young coders from around the world. From the Central European region which spans seven countries, only four university teams qualified: and we’re very proud of Josef Minařík, Adam Rajský and Eldar Urmanov for their stellar representation.

Three-member team represented CUNI at the International Collegiate Programming Contest global final.
Three-member team represented CUNI at the International Collegiate Programming Contest global final.

Speaking of promising young talent: the annual academic competition České hlavičky has recently awarded its prizes to laureates across multiple STEM disciplines. The Universum Prize, co-organised by CUNI’s MFF, was awarded to Petr Jeřábek, whose work detailed the main algorithms used for the improvement of neural networks. Yet that’s nowhere near the only achievement to celebrate at CUNI’s Faculty of Mathematics and Physics this month: Dr Erin Carson, a researcher focusing on devising new algorithms for large computational systems, has received the ERC Starting Grant. “There is a real need for a better understanding of approximations in super-computing. This June we opened the era of ‘exascale computing’, which in turn brings entirely new possibilities and is expected to bring great development in this computing area,” notes Dr Carson, whose 5-year grant will help her pursue this exciting area. 

How to motivate students to undertake independent research? CTU’s Summer of Research at FIT (VýLeT) has an attractive approach: for pursuing their own research project and publishing the results of their work, CTU students can receive up to 2 million in funding or additional scholarships. Working together with teaching staff and PhD students, undergraduate students have a unique chance to get their hands on real research projects and potentially see their work in print. This year’s edition featured some interesting work touching on artificial intelligence: you can read more about the research projects here

Between the 13th and 16th of November 2022, Prague hosted the tenth annual Signal Festival across various landmarks of the city. For the first time in the Festival’s history, CTU’s Faculty of Electrical Engineering participated with its unique Forum Robotum installation which combined art with robotics. During four visiting days, the performance attracted over 24,000 people of all ages, which makes the event one of the biggest science popularisation events organised by the faculty in recent years. The common future of humans and robots sure sparks some curiosity: the atmosphere is captured in an article as well as an impressive video you can watch here

Signal Festival combined robotics with an artful light production.
Signal Festival combined robotics with an artful light production.

At FIT CTU, students use cutting-edge software for artificial intelligence research. Academic work focusing on cutting-edge machine learning and deep neural networks requires not only time and money, but – perhaps above all – an extremely powerful software system. FIT CTU provides its students with a computing GPU cloud based on state-of-the-art NVIDIA DGX A100 software system worth over 4 million crowns. Students of all specialisations can use this equipment and infrastructure to simulate the flow of air around an aeroplane wing or to determine a person’s age based on a facial scan, just to name a few possible uses. 

Anomalies and defects in the production process entail high costs and negatively affect sustainability and productivity. If such defects can be detected as soon as they appear, producers can avoid costly rework, time-consuming final inspections, and delivery delays. The German-Czech AIQUAMA research project (AI-based Quality Management for Smart Factories) aims to do exactly that, having been officially launched on November 7th at the Digital Technologies Forum in Berlin. It focuses on improving the quality and efficiency of production processes thanks to artificial intelligence, and connects CIIRC CTU with its German counterparts. 

There are many challenges awaiting us on the international scene, and technology could hold the key to tackling at least some of them. Taking an early start, representatives of CIIRC and FIT CTU and CzechTrade signed a memorandum of cooperation in a project aimed at supporting Ukraine. The joint initiative will use the unique know-how of the partners to effectively, economically and digitally support the renewal of Ukraine and its business landscape. The project is also supported by the Business Club Ukraine based at the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Czech Republic, as well as the Ukrainian Embassy. CTU students will have a chance to participate, too, taking part in innovative hackathons or supporting the realisation of practical projects.

CIIRC, FIT CTU and CzechTrade are set to cooperate on supporting Ukraine's revitalisation.
CIIRC, FIT CTU and CzechTrade are set to cooperate on supporting Ukraine’s revitalisation.

50 million for 5 years: that’s the support that Torsten Sattler received for his research project named Unified Representation of 3D Maps thanks to his success in the competitive GA CZ EXPRO grant competition. His research focuses primarily on computer vision and builds on previous research endeavours undertaken in Germany, Switzerland and Sweden, currently continued in the Czech Republic thanks to RICAIP’s tenure track. According to rankings, Dr Sattler belongs among the top 10 computer scientists in the Czech Republic. 

Now over to industrial news! With our field’s most anticipated merger in the rear-view mirror, exciting new things are in store for the field of cybersecurity. As Avast merges with NortonLifeLock, the company continues under the new identity of ‘Gen Digital’. Connecting the best of Czech cyber-security expertise with a wealth of international talent, the new team is dedicated to creating technology solutions for people to take full advantage of the digital world, safely, privately, and confidently. 

DataSentics also went international this month: their representatives visited the Messe Stuttgart VISION Conference 2022 to showcase their demo of Quality Inspector: an advanced solution that leverages deep learning to detect defects, anomalies, or incorrect setups. The company’s experts showed off a brand new demo that explained how real-time scratch detection is done and highlighted the power of utilising AI technologies in industrial production. You can watch their video here.

GoodAI zapojuje umělou inteligenci i do vývoje her.
GoodAI zapojuje umělou inteligenci i do vývoje her.

GoodAI recently released an open-source AI application that utilises a novel hybrid algorithm to generate in-game content. As the culmination of a grant, this endeavour falls under the scope of long-running research projects which aim to innovate game development through applied AI techniques. To read more about GoodAI’s AI-inspired game endeavours, check out our latest interview with CEO Marek Rosa

The media industry is changing rapidly: and keeping up is often not easy. At Recombee, they have been paying special attention to latest trends, participating in talks and discussions as well as multiple media-oriented conferences (such as IBC or HbbTV Symposium). If you’d like to learn from their insights, you can read their latest blog contribution, where Anna Doležalová outlines five key take-aways.

📍 From the local AI scene

Digitoo reports new plans and investments

Though it took much longer than the founder initially expected, Digitoo is set to automate the most menial accounting tasks – and now it can also rely on new investment of 1.1 million euros from Kaya and Nation 1. “The money will be dedicated to the development of a personalised artificial intelligence system able to analyse data, compile tax statements, or complete other accounting tasks,” reports Karin Fuentesová, Digitoo founder and CEO.

Czechitas launch a new scholarship fund

The organisation already organises digital literacy programmes, IT skills training, summer schools, workshops and online courses to support women’s transition toward technology careers. But it’s not just about the training: some underrepresented women also need material help to fulfil their IT potential. Czechitas is now launching the Czechitas Fund, which is expected to provide free technical training to women from marginalised communities.

Microsoft eyes the digital skills gap

Microsoft’s biggest development centre in Central and Eastern Europe found its place in Prague, employing over a thousand software engineers, data scientists, designers and product managers. The corporation is now planning to expand its educational programmes, too, providing a specialised system combining online and in-person teaching to Czech and Slovak companies, schools, and institutions. The aim is to equip the population to make the best of the digital revolution, which could speed up productivity growth by up to 70% according to McKinsey.

📰 Stuff that interests us

🧩 ML / AI sources we recommend

Papers with Code & Galactica GitHub

Papers with Code is an open and freely accessible resource which compiles recent and relevant machine learning papers, datasets, methods and evaluation tables. In one of its recent additions, you can explore the GitHub page and paper detailing the development and testing of Galactica, an open-source language model that can store, combine and reason about scientific knowledge better than its predecessors. Or can it?

MIT 6.S101: Introduction to Deep Learning

MIT’s introductory course on deep learning is one of the best free-of-charge educational resources online, at least when it comes to approachable introductions to the world of machine learning. It provides students with foundational knowledge of deep learning algorithms and allows them to get practical experience in building neural networks in TensorFlow, demonstrating their practical applications to computer vision, natural language processing, biology, and more.

Ones and Zeroes Podcast: doc. Ing. Robert Pergl, Ph.D.

Naše životy jsou stále více propleteny se sociálními sítěmi, chytrými spotřebiči, zařízeními pro sledování dat a dalšími digitálními technologiemi. Kolik dat po sobě běžně zanecháváme? Co jsou to FAIR data a jak můžeme efektivně využívat institucionální plány správy dat? To vše si můžete poslechnout v novém díle pořadu Jedničky a nuly s doc. Mgr. Robertem Perglem, PhD., zakladatelem a vedoucím Centra koncepčního modelování a implementace na Katedře softwarového inženýrství ČVUT.

📢 Community calls

Second DIH4AI Open Call for SME-centred AI experiments

To extend the AI4EU platform in the upcoming months, the DIH4AI project will select up to 10 projects focusing on developing new AI solutions for small and medium-sized businesses. The selected proposals will receive up to 100,000 euros to pursue their vision, alongside support to test and experiment provided by DIHs. If you represent a company or small consortium of companies established in one of the EU Member States (or Horizon 2020 associated countries) and are able to shoulder at least 15% of the costs of your proposal, don’t hesitate to apply. The call closes on December 16th at 5pm sharp.

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Barbora Bromová

Barbora Bromová