The French AI ecosystem: opportunities, prospects, technologies to make dreams a reality
First train leaving Brussels. We hop on, start meeting our track, the group we will be spending our day with, a full day in Paris, 13 hours of pure exploration. Our curiosity will be rewarded. Let the conversations begin.
We all want to learn more about AI: understand the paradigms, the shifts and make life easier, better.
We all agree with our varying degrees of knowledge, AI can go in all directions: Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Natural Language Processing, Voice Recognition, Facial Recognition, Self-driving cars. So, what is AI? It is the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, especially intelligent computer programs. The future is closer than we think. AI is here, it’s better than we can imagine, and it’s here to stay. It will go beyond our wildest dreams.
Arrival at Gare du Nord. We are welcomed by our Parisian guides, who, better than all our google-mapping and AIl, know the best way to our first destination, Paris Region Entreprises. While all 120 of us eat breakfast, we have an introduction from Business France, Paris Region Entreprises, Paris&CO, and we are immediately immersed in the Parisian ecosystem, a world of opportunities.
We are primed to learn more about AI in France. As summarized by Business France: great consumer expectations, active research environment, promising startups – a universe of opportunities is available. Many promising startups (Julie Desk, Jam, Datiku, Linkfluence, Wiidii) and AI pioneers like SNIPS. Large corporations are also recognizing the excellence and putting their money where their mouth is: Facebook opens a Paris Lab as AI research goes global, Fujitsu invests in AI center of excellence at the Ecole Polytechnique.
Enter Cap Digital, the French business cluster for digital transformation, who gives us a presentation about their activities in general, fostering the digital transformation of the French economy. AI and Big Data are key topics as shown by their active membership in “France IA”, their leadership in organizing AI events and a specific program for data owners to experiment on innovations proposed by startups/SMEs (Data Experiment program).
On our journey to Microsoft, 2 metro changes, 1 walk across a busy crossroad, 1 tram ride, a long walk along the industrial Issy-le-Moulineaux, just beyond the peripherique, our conversations land on an observation: Artificial Intelligence couldn’t have told us the best way to arrive, it is the know-how and experience of our Parisian ‘chaperone’ that leads us right – can artificial intelligence really take the place of humans?
Arrival at Microsoft, we are welcomed by our hosts, and the Scaling Up group. The elevators are certainly smart…you pick the floor at a keypad entering the elevator bank, it shows you which elevator will take you to your floor: that is AI, isn’t it?
3 elevators later, we are on the 8th floor to the Explorer area to listen to 2 presentations by experts on “Amplifying human ingenuity with intelligent technology”.
We hear about #SeeingAI, an application that describes the world to the visually impaired (available now on iOS since July 19); mobility solutions in connected cars for improved productivity, safety and personal driving experience; cognitive services. AI applied.
Invigorated by technology and a good lunch we are ready for the second part of the day.
Off to Bpifrance, the entrepreneurs bank, serving the future. With a variety of solutions available, adapted to the needs of different startup projects, Bpifrance brings private and public together into one. There we are joined by #FranceAI, work groups created by French government dedicated to participate in defining the national strategy regarding AI. A cluster dedicated to maximize the potential for research, product/service development and innovation, but also to attend to all emerging ethical, social and societal questions. France is poised to seize the challenges of tomorrow, capitalizing on the opportunities in different sectors: customer service, finance, autonomous vehicles, education/digital, healthcare, energy, and robotics.
Last stop before the closing cocktail. We visit Snips, pioneer in voice recognition, the AI voice platform for connected devices. Snips lives in a beautiful, historical building in the 2ème arrondissement, their out-of- the-box thinking shows through in the magnificently creative environment. But it doesn’t stop there: their offering is based on state of the art deep learning, with what they describe as Privacy by Design and believe that humans shouldn’t have to adapt to the device to use it but that, through voice recognition, the device should do what the human wants.
The day is almost over: one last stop at the Residence de Belgique en France. A moment for networking and conversation, perhaps some reflection on the visits of the day. And off we go, back to Gare du Nord. Last train to Brussels. 13 hours, almost chrono, but the learning, the connections, the horizon-widening, goes beyond numbers. What an experience! We cannot wait for the next Innovation Train ride.