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AI bringing exciting possibilities to NZ


In Phoenix, Arizona, cars are self-navigating the streets. In many homes, people are speaking to digital assistants, with the machines responding.

Smartphones and apps can now recognise faces in photos and translate from one language to another, to name a few other examples of artificial intelligence (AI).

A leading New Zealand geo-AI company, Orbica, says AI is here and it’s bringing exciting new possibilities. But how quickly will they overhaul the way people live and change the way they do business?

Much of the work that’s going into AI is behind-the-scenes with applications for organisations and robotics in the health sector, Orbica chief executive Kurt Janssen says.

Janssen is one of the speakers at the big AI Day event in Auckland on March 28.

“There are a few notable AI trends in the public eye though. Take for example Air New Zealand’s chat-bot Oscar and Ohmio’s self-driving buses. We’re going to see more companies taking advantage of this technology now and in the future.

“We can take advantage of AI solutions that are creating efficiencies around the world. But it’s more than that. New Zealanders are good at innovation and we have an opportunity to lead the world in the development of AI solutions. That’s what Orbica is doing.

“Environment Canterbury has supported Orbica’s research and development. They’ve been a test-bed for us and supported our vision.

“As Kiwis, the environment is always at the forefront of our minds whether it’s the built environment or the natural environment. Our geo-AI solution takes imagery collected by planes, drones and satellites and detects and classifies features such as building outlines, water bodies, trees and roads.

“It can be trained to identify pretty much anything. That means it’s possible to measure water bodies over time, forestation, desertification, informal settlements, roads. Imagine if you could map out the nameless roads of Africa or identify how to get disaster relief supplies to remote areas. You can’t manage feature detection of that scale without AI.”

AI Forum NZ executive director Ben Reid says AI will continue to make incremental inroads into the daily lives of all New Zealanders, saving people time and effort.

“We’re seeing things like shopping and movie recommendations which will get faster and even more accurate.

“Doorbell cameras can now automatically let delivery drivers into homes based on facial recognition. Right now, New Zealand needs to continue to invest in our talent pool: not just technical AI skills but also a digital literate workforce with soft skills, empathy and critical thinking.”

“Machine learning is the most in-demand skillset in the workforce right now and commands a premium salary. New Zealanders may not be aware that they can take world-class online AI courses for free? For example, Google launched their Machine Learning Crash Course a few weeks ago.

AI Day is being organised by NewZealand.AI and the AI Forum NZ, which is part of the NZ Tech Alliance, bringing together 14 tech communities, over 500 organisations and more than 100,000 employees to help create a more prosperous New Zealand underpinned by technology.

For further information contact Make Lemonade NZ editor-in-chief Kip Brook on 0275 030188.

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