AI-Day - inspiring and igniting New Zealand's AI capability

AI-DAY was a full-day conference held at the ASB Waterfront Theatre in Auckland's Wynyard Quarter. Leaders in every sector gathered, keen to learn how AI will impact their organisation and the world around them. Analytics technical lead Konrad Jarocinski reports back from the day.

The AI opportunity

Hon Clare Curran, Minister of Communications and Digital Media and the Minister of Government Digital Services, opened the event with an address about the role of government in the advancement of artificial intelligence. She mentioned the plan to appoint the Chief Technology Officer within the government, and said:

“Economic growth will come to those who embrace this tech”

Steven Guggenheimer from Microsoft gave a comprehensive update of company’s latest advancements in AI platforms and how Microsoft is embedding artificial intelligence in its own products such as PowerPoint (real-time speech to text language translations on top of the presentation slides).

Stephen Guggenheimer

He also stated:

“It’s too early to apply AI to everything, but too late to do nothing”.

Gary Littlefair from AUT talked about how the university can cooperate with business to embrace artificial intelligence via knowledge transfer, talent transfer and technology transfer.

Panel discussion: developing AI capability

Dawie Olivier, CTO of Westpac NZ, explained that the AI journey started back in the 1930s - he encouraged reading sci-fi books to understand the current trends.

Mahmood Hikmet presented the work of autonomous driving startup Ohmio, focusing on level 4 automation services for airports and warehouses. A level 4 car can handle most normal driving tasks on its own, but will still require driver intervention from time to time, during poor weather conditions, for example, or other unusual environments.

Orbica (represented by Kurt Janssen), through maps, graphics, infographics, 3D worlds and interactive tools, enables the companies to embrace the power and transform location data into solution.

Key takeaways from this panel:

  • There is only high-level awareness of AI on NZ boards. Directors need to put new technologies at the top of every meeting agenda to avoid being disrupted
  • While there is huge excitement around artificial intelligence, many companies still do not know where to start with AI, there is a fear of the unknown
  • Lack of data strategy within companies slows down advancements in AI
  • Developed world countries have a lot of legacy systems and architecture to cope with to accelerate the adoption of AI
  • New Zealand is well positioned for AI adoption

AI Day panel

Panel discussion: the impact of AI on people and society

The Cacophony Project (Grant Ryan) is an open source project that creates the equipment that lures invasive predators with sound and light and identifies predators automatically using machine learning algorithms.

Sean Lyons from Netsafe showed how Re:scam helps people from becoming fraud victims by occupying the time and resources of scammers through deploying a chat bot.

'The virtual you is not owned by you'

Alayna Van Dervort from Amazon works with organisations on the front lines of AI/ML Positive impact projects in education, environmental advocacy, accessibility, healthcare, child sex trafficking and global crises.

“Technology when used for good can make the world a better place”

Key takeaways from this panel:

  • 85% of jobs in 2030 do not yet exist
  • The education sector needs to be prepared for the shortage of the skill in the AI field
  • It is important to manage the expectations of the end users of AI products
  • Students need to learn to be agile in the fast-changing technology environment
  • There is a need for an international body that would regulate some aspects of AI globally


The future with AI

Aaron McDonald from presented how this blockchain startup partners with innovators in key industries to create a marketplace of applications.

Adam Cutler from IBM shared insights on forming emotionally authentic relationships between humans and machines. He also explained on how to introduce yourself to a robot using

The event concluded with a presentation from Soul Machines – their Chief Business Officer explained a vision of digital human celebrities, icons and digital human companions. Mark Sagar, company CEO, presented the live demo of startup's prototype Baby X, which gets upset and needs reassurance when Sagar hides, and can also recognise pictures.

Baby X

AI in New Zealand

AI-Day event proved that New Zealand has what it takes to be in the forefront in AI. Artificial intelligence is here not to replace humans but to augment human skills.

There is a huge appetite for implementing AI solutions, and we’re here to help.


Konrad Jarocinski is an Analytics Technical Lead working on strategic engagements to help our customers with analytics roadmaps, architectural strategies, big data implementations, AI adoption and agile analytics project delivery.