Pierre Robinet
Red Library
Highlights From VivaTech 2017

Some early AI players were already at VIVA TECHNOLOGY a year ago (see my 2016 takeaway), most of them still in their infancy. One year on,  it is inspiring to see their progress: Julie Desk, the artificial personal assistant just raised €2,5 million to grow, and Recast.ai, unknown a year ago, is now reportedly the best in class start-up. This reflects how artificial intelligence actually penetrates any industry and will contribute to re-shape all business. With its ability to enable personalization and customization at scale, AI will be a powerful differentiator for any consumer-facing business. It will improve precision and speed to market, and increase the potential for interactions, engagement and transaction. This new chapter is very complex, but has the potential for great positive impact on society.

1. AI – A positive disruption for our economy

Digital giants from both USA and China currently dominate the investment race in AI, with tens of billions of dollars going into this new business. However, AI adoption has only just started in traditional corporates, requiring strong expertise, talents and the need to have already embraced digital transformation.

A few sectors appear to lead the change faster than others: Healthcare, with automated diagnostics; Zebra Medical vision teaches AI-powered computers to automatically read and diagnose medical imaging data; Transport, with the raise of Driverless cars able to operate without human input; Finance, which processes automated tasks to gain productivity – KABBAGE combines machine learning, algorithm, data from public profiles on the internet and other factors to rate people and then loan money for their small business; as well as Manufacturing’s new factory and supply chain models, and Retail accelerating in new customer’s intelligent interactions.

And not surprisingly, all case studies demonstrate how much value these algorithm and machine will bring to any business. Amazon’s use of AI has seen a 75% reduction in click-to-shop time, resulting in $1bn in reduced churn and increased sales. Snaptravel, a Messenger and SMS-only hotel deal company has seen over $1M in revenue just from Messenger. Accenture have already analyzed 12 developed economies and found AI has the potential to double their annual economic growth rates by 2025. And in the meantime, 85% of executives at big companies say they are planning to invest heavily in AI over the next three years.

2. Robots are our new friends

Left: Heasy is a robot Kiosk dedicated to retail industry and customer services – Right: Dumy from aroboticlife aiming to become one of your family..            


Plenty of robots were running around the exhibition over 3 days, and look to absolutely become part of everyday life.

First they simplify our life, offering us a more convenient journey. Having access to vast volumes of data, they are entering all businesses, empowering humans, and giving them access to better work and life conditions. For example, Diya One provides healthier workplaces and living areas for all, and can guarantee the best indoor air purification. Gwapit helps you summarize your day grouping and prioritize your pending notifications, missed calls or new emails. A lot of initiatives leveraging new machine learning algorithms help us do more and become more efficient.

They are our new companions. Hundreds of Peppers were on-site, all equipped with different application and technologies. Whether they are virtual (chat bots) or real, they aim to respond to our needs, to guide us in our life, to inform us on specific products, to entertain our kids or assist us in any personal or professional task. Heasy (Hease Robotics) is one of those new assistants dedicated to retail Industry, and Dumy from aroboticlife is a new personal companion who aims to become a member of your family.

Last but not least, the emotion race has started and most of the players actually focus on delivering the friendliest and very human experience. Humans have the ability to understand emotions. Robot manufacturers now play with our senses to create new humanoids who perceive our human feelings, and tend to simulate our human behaviours so that we receive them well. The more we share and interact, the faster machines can learn. The more we will open our life, the more robots will become intelligent, and finally be widely accepted, and even become a must. Scoop.ai (whose founder initially created Aldebaran) designs artificial creatures and new species between the real and digital domains for humans, among humans. This raises a big question on the future role of humans in such an enriched and augmented word.

3. Humans are more important than ever

According to Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet, there are likely to be more jobs that can’t be fulfilled in the age of automation, as a result of artificial intelligence (AI). Artificial intelligence will automate tasks, not jobs. Recent McKinsey research suggests that 10% of jobs will completely disappear by 2035. The ultimate goal is not building machines that think like humans, but designing machines that help humans think better. Humans will have the ability to switch to complementary tasks, often benefiting from the efficiency gains associated with machine substitution. And finally the lower costs and increased output in one specialized domain can increase labor in other complementary domains. In other words, let’s embrace the intelligence augmentation chapter, well illustrated in start-up Wiidii, the 1st hybrid personal assistant, combining both a unique artificial intelligence and a real concierge service.

Humans are good at exercising “common sense” in universal ways without thinking expansively or requiring large data sets. Machines are in their relative infancy in this field. The human brain is good at exercising intuition. Humans are good at learning to learn and train intelligent algorithms. Humans can learn a new skill completely unrelated to their current skill set, can decide what to learn, and find and gather data accordingly, can learn implicitly, subconsciously, and will continue to play a huge role in machine learning. (Google cloud Machine Learning already provides modern machine learning services, with pre-trained models and a service to generate your own tailored models.)

Humans are finally able to set a vision, and are very versatile: the same person can perform reasonably at many tasks, e.g. pick up a box, drive a car to work, console a kid, and give a speech. Machines and robots are still purpose built for specific tasks. Last but not least, while there are now machines which have generated works of music (like “Daddy’s Car”, an AI-written pop song created by SONY computer science laboratory) that are indistinguishable to lay persons from the work of masters, these have been largely based on learning the creativity patterns of those masters. True creativity would entail the ability to generate novel solutions to problems not previously seen or to create truly innovative works of art.


Some people are apprehensive about the future, but I am personally optimistic. Digital giants have created the platform which gave us access to the internet and which will help us create a better word. As Eric Schmidt mentioned in his talk “The Case For Optimism”, Artificial Intelligence and Natural Intelligence will form a new modern intelligence. The next intelligence will be assisted, augmented and even autonomous in some cases and this will create jobs and opportunities, open more business, empower and enrich our lives.

The only thing that can make us fail is a lack of anticipation. Seeing Emmanuel Macron, the new French President, spending four hours walking in the conference centre and ending with a fantastic speech empowering entrepreneurship, it’s likely we will soon see more investment from France and many other governments in learning not just to live with AI, but to live better with AI.

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