Meet the forthcoming AI revolution at ESC Silicon Valley 2017

September 22, 2017

Max The Magnificent-September 22, 2017

In my previous column, Teardown of Apple's iPhone 8 at ESC Silicon Valley, I mentioned that the CEO of iFixit, Kyle Wiens, will be giving one of the keynotes at the forthcoming Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) Silicon Valley, which is to be held December 5-8, 2017, at the San Jose Convention Center (check out the full schedule).

I'm really looking forward to Kyle's keynote presentation on the Wednesday. I'm also very much looking forward to the second keynote presentation, which is to take place on the Thursday. Titled Want a Real R2D2? A New AI Approach Is Forming, this little beauty is to be given by Dr. Gunnar Newquist, who is the Founder and CEO of Brain2Bot Inc.


Gunnar is a scientist-turned-entrepreneur who is obsessed with the functionality of the brain and how living creatures learn. He obtained a PhD in Cell & Molecular Neuroscience from the University of Nevada, Reno, and conducted a post-doctorate in learning and memory at ESPCI Paris-Tech. Just to make us all feel really pathetic about ourselves, in his spare time Gunnar is also a trained concert pianist and a former professional extreme skier.

Regarding Gunnar's keynote, the official description on the ESC website says it all:

Why don't we have a real R2D2 yet? Deep learning is the current buzzword in artificial intelligence. Though deep learning is highly successful in many applications, it is fundamentally incapable of bringing artificial beings like R2D2 from fiction to reality. Deep learning cannot provide the flexibility and personality required to provide the appearance of sentience. Biology, however, has already solved the fundamental problems that are keeping R2D2 from becoming real. Even simple organisms possess the abilities that deep learning lacks: instant decision-making in uncertain environments, flexibility, and (surprisingly) personality in small, efficient packages. Several companies have begun applying neuroscience to embedded AI problems, and the results are already quite dramatic. The process of biomimicry -- applying natural intelligence principles to software strategies -- is what is going to turn our devices into companions. This lecture explores how the next revolution in AI will come from an understanding of natural intelligence.

This is right up my street. I'm currently interested in anything and everything to do with cognitive (thinking / reasoning) embedded systems, artificial neural networks, deep learning, machine vision, and virtual and augmented realities (see also my own ESC presentation: Advanced Technologies for 21st Century Embedded Systems).

I'm also fascinated by robotics, but I agree with Gunnar when he says that existing deep learning and artificial intelligence technologies cannot provide the flexibility and personality required to provide the appearance of sentience. Thus, I'm very excited to hear Gunnar's insights regarding the forthcoming revolution in AI.

Will you be attending ESC Silicon Valley? If so, perhaps I'll see you at Gunnar's keynote. Happily, this will be open to anyone to attend so long as they are flaunting a Free Expo Pass, but you do have to register. I'll be the one in the Hawaiian shirt. As always, all you have to do is shout "Max, Beer!" or "Max, Bacon!" to be assured of my undivided attention.

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