Over 2000 international delegates descended on RMIT and the Melbourne Convention Centre when the 26th International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI) came to Melbourne in August.
The high attendance and enthusiasm shown at this year’s conference reflects the coming revolution in Artificial Intelligence (AI), according to RMIT's Dr. Andy Song, who played a pivotal role with the local organising committee for this year's conference.
"The most exciting part about AI is the acceleration of development in the field," he says.
"It’s hard to anticipate what will happen next because of the high speed of which it is moving."
RMIT hosted the first two days in Building 80, the Swanston Academic Building, on Swanston Street, where delegates participated in workshops, presentations and demonstrations on autonomy and AI.
"The main word to describe IJCAI has been: hot! There were so many participants and the participation was phenomenal - not just academics, but also industry," he says.
"Companies were competing for the best results; there was commercialisation of ideas and entrepreneurship; and the line between industry and academia was blurred.
"Everyone was excited and looking for ideas and new talents, while students were looking for career paths, and there was very dynamic interaction going on between delegates."
As well as sharing hosting duties, RMIT was involved as a major sponsor and contributor, with several papers presented by staff and students as part of the program.
"We have a very strong research team, passionate about AI, but we’re willing to invest and do more," Dr. Song said.
"At RMIT, we focus more on the real-life impact of AI and the University will be a significant player in the development of AI, by bringing leading technology into laboratory work and by integrating practical challenges and problems into research agendas."
IJCAI, the largest and longest running conference in its field, was also hosted at the Melbourne Convention Centre and saw an overwhelming rise in attendance this year.
Inside the Convention Centre, the RMIT booth showcased a duel between miniature robo-cars and tested an innovative program using eye pupil detection to predict what visitors should have for lunch.
Professor Lin Padgham from RMIT's School of Science demonstrated a project that uses agent-based simulation technology to determine possible bushfire evacuation routes - the first time the work has been exhibited following five years in development.
Large crowds enthusiastically cheered on the humanoid robots competing in a football tournament, while enthusiastic punters tried to outsmart an unbeatable computer at Texas Hold'em poker.
The Robotics Showcase ran throughout the conference, demonstrating advanced developments in AI, including a robotic arm controlled by thought, co-developed by RMIT PhD student Shivy Yohanandan.
The final day of the Conference was Industry Day, with Andy Kitchen, entrepreneur and RMIT alumnus, co-hosting a panel exploring the advantages and challenges of launching a start-up in AI.
While the Conference wrapped up on a high, the question remained: what can we expect from a new reality with robots playing a bigger role? Dr. Song is optimistic.
"We are turning our research efforts into tangible outcomes with a universal impact, so that AI can bring real benefits to people," he says.
"Acceleration in technology will spread AI applications to industrial, agricultural and civil sectors, such as health and education.
"The field is attracting more investment and talent and this will only continue to increase, especially as more people join and it builds like a snowball effect.
"That is the most exciting part, that we are moving at such high speed, and we are all a part of something great that is only just beginning."
Story: Andie Phillips