Guy Annan


Grid Innovation Day | Key Notes and Interesting Ramblings

6th October 2017

Generator - 12 Madden Street

The Space

Firstly, If you haven’t had the chance to check out the Grid AKL buildings down in Silo Park it is well worth the stroll. The amount of new buildings that have gone up in the past year is incredible and it truly is a world class space. The Grid space occupies both the Seddon and Pakenham St buildings, you can walk in and one of the reception peeps will happily show you around. Silo park is going Gangbusters right now, it also has the new Sustainable Costings - Flagship Learning Centre, which pretty inspirational space. The building has been made with 90% sustainable materials and was built by Auckland Prisoners. Full story here.


- Greg Cross (Soul Machines)

First up we had Greg Cross from a company called Soul Machines. You’ve probably seen the Digital Human they did for Air New Zealand. These guys are riding the precipice of A.I technology and their vision for the future is borderline scary. For a NZ company they are global leaders in this space but they said about a dozen times that “this is just the beginning”.

Their approach is to fully humanise technology and what better way to do this than focusing on the human face. Quote “The human face as an instrument of the human condition”. They are currently doing this by creating digital humans that are based off real people, adding gesture based responses, facial recognition and eye tracking, responses to types of visual and audio input. This ‘being’ becomes a personal customer service assistant. Essentially the same methodologies of a chatbot but with a layer of human interaction that’s clearly distinguished as not human.. but getting pretty bloody close to the real thing.

The practical applications outside of a customer service based A.I that Greg is creating is like something out of Black Mirror. My biggest take-away was the evolution of processing power (seen here). Similar to Moore’s Law, this has been a bang on prediction in the speed and cost of transistors. Basically, within in a few years we will have the ability to place the same amount of data as 1 Human Brain into a singular device, another few years from that x50 brains in one device.

What this means for Soul Machines is they are starting to create virtual avatars of real people (Digital DNA), that contain their quirks, gestures, responses, knowledge of their peers/family network and even memories. They can create your own digital avatar in 6 months, in 2 years it will take only 2 days to create. You can use this avatar to send to business meetings, they will act and absorb information on your behalf. Take this one step further and you could have a board room full of avatars, where the real people are in other meetings.. This isn’t a far off future prediction, Soul Machines are making this shit happen right now.


- Brett Roberts (Datacom)

A more practical part of the day as Brett walked us though the more commercial based uses for A.I, AR and VR. The most interesting point he made which I now claim as my own is that we truly are at just the beginning of all this technology, think 10 years before the dot-com bubble.. that’s where we are with this tech. All this technology merging together at once along with other industry tech around robotics, cryptocurrencies and even space travel. The next 10 years are so uncertain. The largest corporations in the world that have been around since the post war era will break up, big banks will break up. The way we work, what sort of careers we have, the way we interact with each will fundamentally change in a small amount of time. There was a stat that in 10 years, 60% of jobs that will be available actually don’t even exist now.

Brett stressed that to truly survive as a business or an employee is that you need to adopt these technologies now, and be incredibly adaptable with learning new skills, your job may be automated sooner than you think.


- William Chomley (Founder of Imagr)

Here’s a guy who spends more time doing tech than talking about it. Despite his awkward and rather nervous characteristics this guy is the fucking bomb. Showcasing his product “Smart Cart” which uses image reduction techniques to scan products in a shopping trolley, no barcodes, no tills, what ever products are in your trolley as you soon as you push the trolley outside the store it automatically charges your credit card. Simple.. Brilliant. He broke down A.I in 3 ways

- assisted intelligence.We call this type of automation–where the AI is assisting humans to do the same tasks faster or better–Assisted Intelligence. The humans are still making some of the key decisions, but the AI is executing the tasks on their behalf. The decision rights are solely with the humans.

- augmented intelligence. Where humans and machines learn from each other and redefine the breadth and depth of what they do together.

- autonomous intelligence. Where adaptive/continuous systems take over in some cases. They will do so only after the human decision maker starts trusting the machine (e.g., fully autonomous self-driving cars), or when the cycle time of decision making is so fast that having the human in the loop is a liability (e.g., automated trading)