I was lucky to get a ticket to hear Andrew Blake’s Lovelace lecture, on the subject of “Machines that (learn to) See”.
Machine vision works nowadays. Machines can: navigate using vision; separate object from background; recognise a wide variety of objects, and track their motion. These abilities are great spin-offs in their own right, but are also part of an extended adventure in understanding the nature of intelligence through visual perception.
The speaker was Laboratory Director at Microsoft Research, Cambridge and his team was behind the the Kinect technology. He is now Research Director at the Turing Institute.
The lecture covered the history of machine vision over the last 50 years, the rise and fall of different approaches to AI over the decades, and finally the recent successes of analysis-by-synthesis and empirical recognisers.
The BCS hosted a presentation by Simon Taylor of Barclays Bank.
With the full potential of the uses of blockchain databases still yet to be discovered, there is a race, led by financial services, following the growth of Bitcoin, to find new, transformational business models that will exploit this technology.
Simon will explain that, while a Blockchain is just a kind of shared database, it is quite different because it creates a system of transparent, unalterable and permanent records of agreements. The impact of this is to allow all parties to organise themselves without fear of cheating. Simon will explain how cryptographic keys are used to create this trust, how it stops any single party from having more control than any other, and how, by allowing parties, for instance a buyer and a seller, to directly connect, it is seen as an opportunity and a threat by established trusted intermediaries, like his own organisation.
Simon covered a lot of interesting use cases in his presentation and shone light on the differences between bitcoin/blockchain as a technology. For example, this scenario was in his talk and on his blog:
Problem: When an investor comes to raise a Seed, things get messy, people fall out. Solution: Store this on a Blockchain at NASDAQ which has perfect time stamps, and digital signatures and no database administrator can edit the record without signatures of the founders. Could you do this with a database? Sure, but you’d lose that audit trail.
There are plenty of links to further reading on the blog post, 10 things you should know about Blockchains. Also, What is the Blockchain and why should you care on Recode is worth a read.
I was lucky to get a ticket to see Steve Furber receive the Lovelace Medal for 2015, for services to the advancement of computer science. He gave an inspirational lecture about his work, starting with his contribution to ARM and including his latest project, SpiNNaker.