Artificial Intelligence: The most disruptive tech of our time

At the beginning of the 19th century, the industrial revolution transformed manufacturing processes. Now we are witnessing the beginning another revolution thanks to emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, which has been forecast to be one of the most transformative technologies of our time.

Our focus for this week of the Master's programme was AI and Machine Learning, as well as the building blocks of starting a business, and the candidate's personal projects.

Understanding AI and Machine Learning

Guiding us through the core topic of the week were a range of experts with backgrounds in machine learning, natural language processing, artificial intelligence and cognitive computing.

Elinor Swery, a senior consultant at IBM, revealed the fundamental building blocks of Artificial Intelligence. She broke down what makes this technology tick and the training behind machine learning.

With Alyona Medelyan, a specialist in natural language processing and co-founder and CEO of Thematic, we took a closer look at how technological advancements are enabling us to extract meaning from text, the power of chatbots, and how this technology can be used to understand customers in a whole new way.

John Ferguson, customer manager at NZTE, took a hands-on session with IBM Watson, highlighting what's available today and how such a tool can be applied in various contexts, helping businesses to better understand employees, customers and trends.

Starting (and sustaining) a business

This week Frances Valintine, founder of Tech Futures Lab, and Dorenda Britten, an expert in design thinking and collaborative innovation, helped our candidates understand how they can take their ideas to reality.

Frances identified fundamental building blocks that are key to creating and maintaining a successful business, while Dorenda brought activities and ideas to the group that encouraged them to tap into their imagination.

Exploring different ideas and industries

This week we also welcomed in Mahsa Mohaghegh, She# founder and lecturer at AUT, who showed us how accessible and engaging augmented reality can be.

Lillian Grace, founder and CEO of, opened our eyes to the power of data and how it can help tell our story in New Zealand. Bill Kermode, the CEO of the NEXT Foundation, talked about funding, partnerships and investing in local environmental and educational projects. And Alan Kan, the NZ Technical Leader for IBM Cloud Software and Digital Innovation, took us through his personal journey, including the many twists and turns and led him to becoming the leader of Bluemix, IBM's cloud platform as a service, in NZ.

Finishing off the week was Dale Clareburt, one of the four founders of Weirdly, a company focused on shaking up the traditional recruitment methods. She shared her insights on investing in culture and how the way we hire and work is changing.

Bringing ideas together

Every morning this week we heard from our candidates about their project idea, which has taken on new life (and in some cases changed tact entirely) following further research into an area of interest.

The pool of ideas remains as diverse as ever, with candidates focused on everything from cybersecurity and the boating community, to NZ's ageing population and the NGOs of the world.

Underpinning our candidate's ongoing research is a kaupapa Maori philosophy, which Kiri Dell and Robyn Kamira are helping to integrate into the programme.

Follow us on Twitter to stay up to date with what's happening during the week. If you want to know more about our Master's Programme or get in touch with the team.


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Tech Futures Lab is an education facility of The Mind Lab, a NZQA registered Tertiary Education Organisation under the provisions of the Education Act 1989. Candidates who are studying on a programme delivered by Tech Futures Lab are enrolled with The Mind Lab.

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