VMworld USA – Day 5 – Keynote

Ray O’Farrel is out on stage again and introduces Dr. Fei Fei-le, professor of Computer Science at Stanford. Her talk is on using object recognition algorithms that perform mass scale big data manipulation and analysis.

ImageNet – They captured over a billion images from the internet in order to use big data to train computer algorithms in image recognition.

In 2009, they provided 15M images sorted and claimed across 22k categories automatically. The example shown was all pictures of cats were grouped into 1000’s of images. Using the recognition technology to look for specific patterns in how a cat is “made up”. The entire library is available at image-net.org available to the research world for free.

Convolutional neuro network – the science didn’t stop at image searching and categorization. It was then able to take a group of pictures of cars; correlate and match make, model, year, etc. Then taking the data from where it was crowd sourced, it was able to put analysis together of what areas were good and bad for crime, depending on the types of car found there!

To me this really highlighted the importance of big data/analysis. It is also quite frightening to think that this was born from a mass group of images scoured from the internet and running through a system that was able to interpret that into something quite tangible. It makes me wonder, given how much information is on the internet, what could be possible if there was some way to harness it (Skynet anyone?)

Dr Greg Gague is the next on stage. His talk today is focussed on neural science and the brain. To learn more you have to go and get a PhD to understand it fully. He uses the analogy of this in comparison to being an astronomer; where you can just go and get a telescope to start learning, which is quite a difference.

He talks on how the Spiker Box was created to investigate neuroscience in an amateur way, similar to the telescope analogy. He gives a demonstration by putting a cockroach in ice water to slow it down. He then proceeds to cuts off a limb of the cockroach live on stage and hooks it up to the Spiker Box to “listen” to what the brain sounds like when he touches the leg and neurons fire.

The demo ultimately leads to a lady on stage being hooked up to a machine which monitors when she moves her arm and sends a signal to the machine which then in turns is hooked up to another person and it forces them to move their arm.

A very cool demonstration showing the future potential of technology and research in neuroscience!
The third speaker talks of how humans accept reality that is in front of them. If you are born blind then you never realise what it is like to see so you never miss the experience. They accept that reality as they’ve never known any better.

He talks of how the brain is a supremely powerful generalised computational device. When eyes see, the brain receives signals and interprets that into our subjective experience of vision. The brain doesn’t care where it has received that information from; which leads into the thought of plug-and-play organs.

The concept of the “brainport” device is something which has sensors on glasses and can be worn by blind people; this device can send patterns via audio or physical means that can be understood by the person after a period of adjustment. Ultimately leading to them getting a perception of vision through media other than eyeballs.

He unveils a device that can be worn on a user’s back that detects sound and submits small vibrations /patterns to a deaf person. They show how this device has already enabled a deaf person to start understanding words that a person says to them through “feeling” the sound on their back. Sometimes the genius of some people or organizations is hard to comprehend. It also makes me realize that the work I do is so insignificant to the people who are revolutionising the way in which the human race is using technology to adapt and break boundaries that were once perceived as impossible to be broken.

The talks today are very insightful and really give an understanding of what IT is able to do for people who are smarter than the people making technology work for them. What an inspiring and thought provoking session to end the week on!

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