newsletter #16: Eight billion dollars and a gold medal to boot

From a gold medal for CTU to the multi-billion dollar merger at Avast, the local AI scene took no time off in August. We organised our first AI Summer School and inter-university teams have started works on remote COVID-19 patient recovery.

🏡 What’s new at

Bringing AI into high schools, Machine Learning College, and the City of Prague organised an AI Summer School for high school students and teachers. Throughout the programme, which ran in the first two weeks in August, participants learned about the ins and outs of artificial intelligence, tried using various machine learning strategies, ran data analyses, and much more.

The project marks the pilot stage of integrating AI into high school curricula state-wide and aims to motivate driven students and teachers to pursue the topic inside and outside the classroom. If you think your school may be interested in joining the programme, train its teachers in the latest AI trends, and introduce artificial intelligence into its curriculum, contact Jiří Materna.

In addition, we’re looking to make AI education as accessible and engaging as possible, so let us know what would improve the teaching of AI in high schools by filling in our AI Use Case Survey here.

And what did participants think of the AI Summer School? See for yourself.

🎭 Events we’re excited about

7 – 8 Sep, AI in the Public Sector

VISION Project would like to invite AI experts and industry representatives to join the ICT-48 Networks Theme Development Workshop about the potential role of AI in the public sector. If you’d like to have your say in defining promising approaches for European research and innovation in trustworthy AI, don’t forget to apply below.

8 Sep – 31 Oct, Science Festival

The nation’s biggest science popularisation event is back and will take place both online and in person. This year’s Science Festival is focused on the digital world and plans a host of exciting activities, events, and opportunities for young and more seasoned scientists.

24 Sep, Scientists’ Night

For one night every year, labs, science institutions, observatories, and universities all around the country come alive. Visitors to the annual Scientists’ Night can enjoy lectures, tours, practical experiments, and in-depth discussions with experts. Admission is free, and the programme is sure to captivate both children and grown-ups.

5.-6. Oct, Start-up World Cup & Summit

Startup World Cup & Summit is a European startup champion’s league: a 2-day event with both local V4 round and Continental Finale happening in Prague, Czech Republic, and streamed around the world. Join to watch startups compete for the title of the European Champion, a ticket to the Global Finale in Silicon Valley, and a 500k USD investment prize. In addition, the event hosts famous speakers, mentors, and inspiring visionaries who will definitely leave you feeling inspired.

23 Oct, Development and humanitarian aid

This unique event aims to connect cutting edge technologies with real problems. The main topics covered include Climate change and natural resources as well as Digitalisation, AI, remote sensing, and IoT. Among other exciting speakers, our Executive board member Pavel Juruš will be sharing his expertise regarding the challenges associated with using climate data and development reports in agriculture.

26 – 27 Oct, Prague Data City Congress

Mark your calendars: this year, we are proud partners of the Prague Data City Congress, which will take place in October at CAMP and in the Emmaus Monastery. A must for anyone interested in data, urban planning, and municipal coordination in Prague. Watch this space for more information.

28 Oct, Future Mobility – Value of Data & Trust in AI

For a chance to discuss challenges and opportunities for AI in the Mobility & Transportation sector with other experts, and jointly develop a Strategic Research and Innovation Roadmap for Trustworthy AI in Europe, join VISION Project at the second ICT-48 Networks Theme Development Workshop about future mobility.

👏 Members’ news that makes us proud

The rumours had been circulating for a while — and finally materialised in August: Norton Lifelock is set to acquire Avast for 8 billion dollars. Not only does this transaction prove that Czech tech companies can relish global significance, it also shows that companies can achieve success while taking care of the local ecosystem and beyond. As one of our industrial members, Avast has financially supported’s activities since the very beginning, and its foundation has built up young artists, funded elderly care organisations, or provided for families in need.

We believe that rising tide lifts all boats, of which Avast is a great example. We hope that in the upcoming years, the Czech tech scene will produce other startups and unicorns that will follow in these footsteps — by both global impact and local consequence. Our members are already making great strides in that direction: both Rossum and Resistant AI have made it to CzechCrunch’s list of 25 startups you shouldn’t miss.

Jan Šedivý with the CIIRC CTU team
Jan Šedivý with the CIIRC CTU team

Our academic founding members aren’t standing idly by either: On August 16, Amazon announced the winners of the fourth year of the Alexa Prize Social Bot Grand Challenge. After three years of occupying the silver and bronze positions, the CIIRC CTU team, which develops a chatbot named Alquist, won the gold medal this year. Aside from worldwide recognition among elite teams from prestigious institutions, the win has also secured the group $500,000 in prize money from Amazon. Congratulations!

Yet that’s by far not the only reason to celebrate at CTU this month. As of the 2022 academic year, Czech Technical University in Prague has leapt forward in the prestigious QS World University Rankings. Since last year’s report, it managed to overtake 29 other universities, making this year’s 403rd rank the best in QS Ranking history for CTU.

We are immensely proud of up-and-coming talent and the engaging projects they have been taking part in at CTU and elsewhere. For one, FEE CTU’s student team eForce has introduced their latest monopost FSE.X sporting an innovative, more efficient, and partly 3D-printed design. Their electric F1 equivalent is almost ready to take on other teams’ creations. CTU has also organised the seventh annual instalment of their IT Summer School for female high school students this July, enabling girls to explore the world of information technologies and even take part in an all-day hackathon to wrap up the event. Yet, that’s still not all: CTU’s traditional and popular scientific summer camp has also welcomed its participants this year, bringing university and high school students together and challenging them to use their physics skills in the wild.

Online shopping has become so smooth throughout the past years that we rarely think of it as something special anymore. However, at DataSentics, they are constantly working hard to improve our experience: their product by the name of Betterfy has been featured in a recent article by Microsoft, praising the perks it may bring to firms that decide to adopt it. While DataSentics’ services have been used by a diverse range of companies thus far, including car sellers and e-shops with electronics, they are not leaving the media world behind. Matěj Novák, the long-term director of the Czech Publisher Exchange, has been working with DataSentics since May, striving to help media companies conquer advertising ecosystems.

Recombee also works to improve personalised advertisement and content recommendation. In particular, they have been working closely with Kentico Xperience to give easy access to Recombee’s recommendation algorithms via Kentico’s digital experience platform. Such cooperation will enable customers to quickly set up a true 1-to-1 personalisation of content or product recommendations, effective in real-time.

Schematics of Recombee's approach to unlabeled data from Pavel Kordík's latest blog post
Schematics of an approach to unlabeled data from Pavel Kordík’s latest blog post

The personalities behind leading Czech AI companies command a considerable amount of expertise, and we’re always excited to share their insights. Recently, Pavel Kordík has published an article about few-shot learning, where he features a number of insightful examples on which this up-and-coming technique can be well demonstrated. DataSentics are sharing their wisdom, too; recently, they have released a two-part series on Medium about their understanding of MLOps.

Czech expertise and research already power international tech giants by the likes of Google, especially in machine translation, computer linguistics, and language analysis. Computer scientists from CUNI’s MFF, in cooperation with Charles University Innovations Prague, are selling their language-focused software licenses to firms throughout the globe, strengthening the practice of knowledge transfer through commercial means.

Czech academics are also working to improve life in their homeland through real, tangible ways. The City of Prague is now set to improve their system of speeding tickets using insights from artificial intelligence and game theory, collaborating with experts from CUNI’s MFF. The new system aims to enforce traffic laws quicker and more effectively, all while freeing up administrative resources. CTU’s teams and their colleagues are focusing on quantum communication, and their efforts are dedicated to extending a secure international network meant to service the state’s critical infrastructure, which includes ministries, railways, nuclear power plants, and key hospitals. Strides are being made in healthcare as well: an inter-university team is finding ways of facilitating at-home recovery of chronic COVID-19 patients, hoping it could give them the option to recover in the comfort of their own homes with only a fitness watch for monitoring. This newly developing system could improve the recovery and rehabilitation of patients across various coronary diseases.

📍 From the local AI scene

Czech investors are fueling AI innovation worldwide. Credo Ventures will invest 1.4 million euros into Trickest, a Serbian startup that designs tools to assist ethical hackers and improve security testing. On the other side of the Atlantic, Depo Venture’s syndicate will be entrusting their money to Neuronix AI, which helps computer hardware stay up to par with the increasing computational demand of AI technologies. With the additional investment, Neuronix hopes to lead the market in AI hardware acceleration that may enable faster data processing and less energy expenditure.

It’s not just startups, though — Czech scientists and entrepreneurs support international giants by the likes of Alibaba, too. A trio of Czech mathematicians behind Taran AI, which assists in data analysis and business automation, are helping Alibaba or run their giant business operations more effectively. Their business primarily focuses on data architecture and data science consulting, yet they also dabble in software solutions designed to automate complex decision-making logic.

The Czech digital agency WDF is taking up the challenge of revolutionising the management of oil rigs. A Norwegian firm named ESGIAN has partnered with WDF to design a sophisticated data analytics platform that will help various stakeholders within the oil industry better manage their equipment and process the head-spinning amount of data they collect. Their efforts don’t gloss over climate change, either: the platform includes a CO2 emissions tracker and tips for lowering the oil companies’ carbon footprint.

📰 News you shouldn’t miss

The Aibo robot dog has ‘real emotions and instinct,’ according to its creators
The Aibo robot dog has ‘real emotions and instinct,’ according to its creators

🧩 ML/AI sources we recommend

AI Weekly

Pretty much what it says on the tin: a weekly AI and deep learning newsletter collecting everything in the field of AI you may have missed during the work week’s rush.

The European AI Newsletter

If you’re oriented more toward the European pool, consider subscribing to this bulletin, which collects all AI matters that make a splash on the old continent.

Deep Learning (MIT Press)

This great resource for deep learning students and practitioners is now available online, be it in a rather rudimentary HTML format. The web version collects both exercises and lecture videos, freely available.

What is AI?

The definition of artificial intelligence is constantly evolving, and the term often gets mangled. MIT Technology Review drew a handy flowchart to help you navigate the ever-growing field.

📢 Community calls

Answer our quick survey to help us integrate the teaching of AI into high school curricula in the most engaging and exciting way possible. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, AI practitioner, student, teacher, or tech enthusiast, we would love to hear your take on the most compelling use cases of AI technologies today.

Czech Republic’s Grant Agency calls for project proposals based on the Lead Agency evaluation. This opportunity is part of the agency’s new partnership with the National Science Foundation of the United States and is looking to support projects in artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and plasma science.

💼 Open job positions