“Collision Tech Conference” was held in Toronto, Canada. As a cutting-edge technology conference with the fastest development in the North America, the event originated from Las Vegas and has been held six times this year. Nearly 26,000 participants, 3,750-odd CEO and 900-odd news media from 125 countries gathered in Toronto to discuss with science and technology leaders today’s hot issues of science and technology.
Derek Haoyang Li, the founder and chief education technology scientist of Squirrel AI Learning by Yixue Group, an AI education company from China, was invited to the Collision Summit to share the scientific innovation achievements of their respective fields with representatives of Samsung, Micro-soft, Y Combinator and stars of show business.
Derek Li: Change education with AI
“Science and technology have changed every industry, but education has remained unchanged. I wish to change education thoroughly with AI,” Derek Li said at Collision.
Squirrel AI Learning, established in Shanghai in 2014, is the first artificial intelligence company focusing on the education of primary and secondary schools in China, equipped with an AI adaptive learning engine based on senior algorithms and provides students with customized one-to-one education. Since its establishment, Squirrel AI Learning has raised nearly one billion yuan.
Squirrel AI Learning has established a Yixue AI Lab with SRI as the primary research partner and a Joint AI Lab with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), appointed Professor Tom Mitchell, the god-father of machine learning and the dean of computer science of CMU as the chief AI scientist, and appointed Professor Ken Koedinger of the computer science and psychology system of CMU as chief learning scientist of Squirrel AI Learning. It has made a lot of investment in the research and development of AI education.
The achievements made in the past five years have made Derek Li confident enough to share his research achievements in the field of AI adaptive education before tens of thousands of participants at the conference.
He first introduced the three-level architecture of Squirrel AI Learning engine. The first level mainly comprises a learning map (a persona of the students) and a map of contents (including video teaching and answering questions). The second level comprises a target management engine, a user state platform and a recommendation engine, which can develop different learning strategies for different students. The third level is an interaction system which can interact with human users.
The architecture of Squirrel AI Learning system
Derek Li said he often got 95 points in his childhood. His hometown lies in inland China with a population of more than 100 million. The academic competition was fierce. In order to get one more point, he had to answer 10,000 more questions. “If there was Squirrel AI Learning at that time, I would have only needed to pay attention to the 5% of questions which I did not understand.”
Compared with other world-leading adaptive education companies such as Dreambox, Knewton, a competitive advantage of Squirrel AI is its nano-level breakdown of knowledge points. For example, there are 300 knowledge pints in the math of junior high school. While other companies may break them down into 3,000 knowledge points, Squirrel AI can break them down into 30,000 ones.
Why is the breakdown so detailed? He gave an example, “If the pixels of a camera are increased by ten times, the photos will be clearer. Similarly, if the breakdown is detailed, we can target and diagnose the students’ mastery of knowledge points more accurately and save time for them.”
Other than imparting knowledge, Squirrel AI Learning has developed a system to enhance the students’ learning ability. Derek Li called it MCM, which stands for model of thinking, capacity and method. The system can quickly detect and enhance the students’ learning capacity and quality.
Then how to measure the teaching performance of a virtual teacher of Squirrel AI Learning? Derek Li mentioned that last year Squirrel AI Learning participated in a variety show My Future, in which it competed with an excellent human teacher in the familiarity with the academic performance of students. The virtual teacher finally managed to spot and address the knowledge loopholes of students and defeated the human teacher.
Derek Li said, Squirrel AI Learning aimed to develop a super teacher integrating Confucius, Leonard da Vinci and Einstein to help every student improve their learning speed and outcome by ten times and change education. In order to promote the popularization of education, last year Squirrel AI Learning donated learning accounts worth 1 million yuan to support the learning of students from poverty-stricken families.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: To build a creative collaboration platform
Many people have no idea that he is also a co-founder of HitRecord, an online creative collaboration community. The platform has been registered by more than 750,000 users so far, which emphasize creative cooperation rather than self-promotion. Users can post their ideas on the platform and hunt for potential partners. If their project is bought, they can earn money. HitRecord can be seen as a GitHub of creative community.
Gordon–Levitt said, he opened the website in 2004. At that time he was at a low point in his performing career. So he recorded some audio and videos with his brother on the internet and posted them on a PHP message board of the website for netizens to comment on. It was funny that netizens began to share their creation and inspiration in the message board. The personal website run by Gordon–Levitt has gradually formed a community. Everyone collaborated with each other and began to produce some small videos, music, and even write books.
In 2010, Gordon–Levitt decided to turn his website into an online production company. From then on, HitRecord has produced a TV play that won an Emmy Award, short films played at Sundance Film Festival, and published numerous books and albums. So far, HitRecord has provided a bonus of over 3 million USD to producers on the website.
Earlier this year, HitRecord finished its A-round financing of 6.40 million USD and officially transformed from a production company to a collaboration company. “The focus of HitRecord is to let individuals own and realize these creative experiences,” Gordon–Levitt said.
Michael Seibel: A new head of YC and his “government 2.0” plan
In March this year, 33-year-old Sam Altman, the head of Y Combinator (YC), a famous business incubator of the US, announced his resignation from the chairman position. His successor was Michael Seibel, a partner who joined YC in 2013.
Seibel boasts rich entrepreneurial experience. Before joining YC, he was the founder of Socialcam and Justin.tv. The former was sold to Autodesk at an offer of 60 million USD, and the latter was the predecessor of Twitch, a live-broadcasting platform of the US and was acquired by Amazon at an offer of 970 million USD.
Each year YC will upgrade its RFS (Request for Startups) in public and announce the investment projects and fields they consider as promising. On the stage of Collision, Seibel brought the latest initiative of YC, Government 2.0.
According to YC, the US government has not provided every family with all basic services needed by them, including quality education, affordable housing, healthcare, personal safety, accurate news and information, habitable environment. With the rising of a new generation of technology start-ups, these entrepreneurs will begin to satisfy these demands.
Seibel said, in the past years, more and more start-ups have been hunting for and creating profitable business, helped governments or non-profit organizations solve problems such as the ones in the fields of housing affordability and education.
“I think this generation of entrepreneurs are considering, if the government cannot solve this issue for me, then I may solve it by myself.”
Seibel pointed out, companies such as CodeAcademy (which teaches users how to encode) and Lambda (which trains users into online software engineers for free and charges tuition only when its graduates manage to land a job with a pay of at least 50,000 USD) were consistent with the “Government 2.0” initiative.
“It’s more exciting to invest in a company that has done well economically, and can make communities better,” Seibel said.
Alex Stamos: Facebook has been misunderstood
Alex Stamos, former chief security officer (CSO) of Facebook is now an associate professor of Freeman-Spogli Research Institute of Stanford University. In the past two years, Facebook has been criticized by the public for significant negative news such as leakage of privacy data and intervention in the presidential election. Stamos has experienced all the criticism in person, so his views are of high referential values.
Stamos pointed out, the problems seen by people in Facebook were not fresh. Taking the hacker scandal in the Russian election as an example, Stamos said, this was not the first time for a politician to make use of the influence of social media. The election campaign of the former American president Obama had also used Facebook platform to defeat the Republican candidate in 2012.
Stamos felt that the difference between the American presidential elections in 2012 and 2016 was that many journalists preferred the result that Obama was elected, but in fact the two were not entirely different. Over the years, people have been using social media to manipulate crowds and this phenomenon will continue.
“I don’t think that Facebook has ruined democracy, and Facebook has been misunderstood.”
Stamos said, the problem of Facebook itself is the problem of the entire Silicon Valley system. The way for Silicon Valley to encourage developers and programmers does not encourage them to develop social consciousness, but only do things beneficial to the platform’s construction.
For this reason, Stamos believed that it was the right time to change these tech behemoths. “I think now there are legal anti-monopoly evidence to be used as the ground for the separation of Facebook and Google.”
Peggy Johnson: The investment logic behind Microsoft
Peggy Johnson is the executive vice president for business development of Microsoft, who is responsible for promoting the strategic partnership and transaction. She is also in charge of the business risk fund M12 of Microsoft. Before that, Johnson had worked with Qualcomm for 24 years as executive vice president and strategic partnership president of Qualcomm.
Johnson introduced, five years ago when she joined Microsoft, the Microsoft Ventures department of Microsoft only provided young companies with software tools and know-how and was not an investment department in real sense, but was more like an accelerator.
In March 2016, Microsoft established M12, with a mission to become an active strategic partner for start-ups in their critical development stage and provide financial support to start-ups in their financing of Round A to D. Johnson said, Microsoft preferred those start-up businesses that can solve actual problems and particularly are related with the business of Microsoft and searched for cooperation with them or directly acquired them. For example, two years ago, Microsoft acquired Maluuba, an AI start-up established by Yoshua Bengio, the god-father of artificial intelligence.
“We are committed to helping those companies and technologies we are interested in. We want to let them know what we are searching for and will introduce their technologies into our products,” Johnson said.
The M12 of Microsoft focused on big data and analysis, business SaaS, cloud infrastructure, artificial intelligence/machine learning, productivity, safety and emerging technologies. Microsoft has also paid attention to the field of gaming and those tools used for game development.
Microsoft also pays attention to blockchain. Johnson said, this May Microsoft released a de-centered identity labeling network running on Bitcoin and provided a large-scale de-centered identification and PKI system.
David Eun: AI and 5G are the focus of attention of Samsung
David Eun, the president and chief innovation officer of Samsung NEXT shared in the conference how Samsung had maintained its competitiveness, invested in AI and 5G and how technologies had changed the behaviors of consumers. The predecessor of Samsung NEXT was Samsung Global Innovation Center. Its business core was to cooperate with innovators around the world and focus on venture investment, M&A, business and development and product development.
Eun said, “If you stopped making innovation and moving on, you will be defeated and discarded one day.” This was also the strategy for Samsung to maintain its competitiveness.
Samsung NEXT is focusing on different technology trends. AI and 5G are the core beyond all questions. In the coming three years, Samsung will invest 22 billion USD in AI and 5G. Last year, Samsung established QFund, which focused on earlier AI companies.
Eun also mentioned other trends he had observed in consumer behaviors and technology. “Young consumers value experience. What I mean is real and social experience, rather than buying. The research of Samsung indicates that 80% of the Millennial Generation would spend more money on experience, like going out for dinner or partying with friends.
Meanwhile, the behaviors of product consumption have also changed. Eun explained, consumers did not buy music or film, but by the subscription of Spotify and Netflix. Another example was that the consumers used Uber or Lyft instead of driving a car by themselves.
Many start-ups today have turned various services and activities into subscriptions. “The idea to own things is fading, and the importance of experience has become increasingly prominent” Eun said.
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