This week, we skipped our study session and attended the Rakuten Tech Conference instead. This year’s theme was to connect Heart, Head & Hands and create something new. Dozens of talks and workshops were held in fields like Web and App Development, Game Development, VR & AR, Blockchain technology and Artificial Intelligence. Also, Yoovraj (who works for Rakuten as an iOS Dev) was hosting a Robot Booth with Arduino Workshops for kids.
Democratising Machine Learning
Naturally, we were interested in AI and Machine Learning. One of the many talks that impressed us most was Kaz Sato’s presentation on “Democratising Machine Learning”, focusing on TensorFlow and Google Cloud. It was soon very clear that we had to move from our Laptop CPU to stronger hardware or Cloud, since we started studying and training Deep Learning models. It was for many of us the first time hearing about TPUs, a monster. Kaz Sato is a Google Developer Advocate and a big name in the ML community, giving talks at Google Cloud Next SF, Google I/O, Strata NYC and many more.
Natural Language Processing
Another outstanding talk was given by Regina Barzilay from the MIT Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Lab on Natural Language Processing and Deep Learning. It was a high level talk about the current research at MIT, using transferable representations that can be used across different domains. Barzilay’s most recent paper focuses on style transfer on the basis of non-parallel text.
The lightning talks were mostly in Japanese and very casual and fun, giving a glimpse of rising startups and ideas. It was also interesting to see, what kind of AI based language learning tools (such as VIKI) Rakuten is currently working on. One of the highlights was the CEO keynote. Hiroshi Mikitani gave a bold speech about Japan’s uniqueness and qualities, and fearlessly pointing out it’s weaknesses. Great conference. See you next year.