Even Better the Second Time Around!

On Friday, December 2, over 600 people gathered together to hear 25 speakers discuss current technologies and imagine future uses of video and artificial intelligence at the Rennes opera house.


How? With debates, keynotes and performances dedicated to applications of these two technologies in a world of play, art and even health, and in the company of experts, some of whom came all the way from the USA to talk to us.

The talks were highly appreciated by the audience, and commented live on social networks [10 635 tweets of #digitalTC in just a few hours]: in particular, keynotes by John R. Smith (Watson / IBM Research), Shirine Benhada (Sophia Genetics), Cyrille Chaudoit (The Links), Nicolas Chaverou (Golaem) and François Pachet (Sony Computer Science Laboratory), as well as the performances by Olga Pankova and comedian Marine Baousson, who was as caustic as ever.

“We had two main concerns for this second edition of the Digital Tech Conference. First, was the concept of a major international conference on the emergence of new digital trends a valid one? Could it be reproduced and expanded? And second, could we attract a sufficiently large audience of “curious” experts, professionals and the general public?” explains Stanislas Hintzy, CEO of La French Tech Rennes St Malo. “In the end, all went well on both fronts. And we’re very pleased that this year’s innovations—especially the battles and the automatic speech to text translation—were a success. So, our entire team is already excited about organizing the third edition.”

Thank you yet again to our partners without whom we could never have held this second edition of the Digital Tech Conference.


Relive the highlights of the event in our Best Of video or on STORIFY!

You can also replay it sequence by sequence on the program or in three parts on the TVRennes website:

Morning / Afternoon (part 1) / Afternoon (part 2)

A Review in Numbers of the 2nd La Digital Tech Conference

For its 2016 edition, La Digital Tech Conference invited 25 speakers to discuss video and artificial intelligence topics, with the support of our 28 partners. Like the city’s popular Trans Musicales festival, this edition attracted even more visitors than the previous one, with over 600 participants [612, to be exact] filling almost all of the 642 seats of the Rennes opera house. So, we were practically sold out!

And there was a good reason for this popularity, because this event featured the world’s 1st live presentation of “Speech to Text” translation from English to French. At one of the conferences, our visitors learned that our 2 hosts, Xavier Debontride and Marine Baousson, had 3,900 and 3,183 Twitter followers, respectively (creating a bit of Twitter envy on Marine’s part). However, Xavier had quite a way to go if he hoped to catch up to one of our key guests, Erwann Gaucher of France Bleu, who has no fewer than 87,100 Twitter fans!

10% of Web Users in the USA

On a more serious note though, Shirine Benhanda warned us that, statistically, the person seated next to is likely to develop cancer at some point in his or her life. Fortunately, however, this diagnosis doesn’t have to be nearly as frightening as it used to be, thanks to optimized genetic sequencing that now costs only $1,000 and takes just 24 hours. This followed the impressive performance of John R. Smith, who travelled 5,600 km to join us in Rennes. He explained that at IBM, he was working on artificial intelligence capable of recognizing 3,000 objects as well as hundreds of different places, in order to create a film trailer in under 24 hours!

We also counted 41 live videos of the event on Twitter and 149 viewers for the Olga Pankova interview on Périscope, 250 for John R. Smith, and 291 for Jérôme Vérité. Some of those people might also have tuned in to the TVR video feed, which recorded 3,573 connections to watch this exciting day. And finally, 1,366 people checked out the ladigital.tech website on the big day, 45% of whom were in Paris and 10% in the USA. In the Twittersphere, 1,117 users tweeted 10,635 times under the hashtag #digitaltc (25% of whom were outside France).

Thank you so much!

[Artificial Intelligence] A myriad of unresolved questions

Beyond all the technical and algorithmic issues related to artificial intelligence, the early stages of this approaching paradigm raise a host of social questions. A look back at a day full of reflection.

Psychology, or the role of emotions

When the machine surprises and moves us

For the field of psychology – and even sociology – artificial intelligence is fertile
ground that, by all accounts, is still relatively preserved.

With the latest advances, particularly in terms of design, the “wow” factor quickly hit the audience with the presentation of Baby X, an experimental program capable of learning and reproducing words and expressions, featuring the visual appearance of a 3 or 4 year-old child. Two notions that seemcontradictory, but which transform our screen into a mirror onto the nostalgic, illusory memory of our very own childhoods.


On this topic, Gaspard Breton from Dynamixyz evoked the Uncanny Valley, theorized by Masahiro Mori, according to which the more a robot or animated representation resembles a human being, the more its flaws appear hideous and remove us from any possible comparison.

The Watson project, an IBM research project led by John R. Smith, aimed to show that it was possible to systematize the creation of a horror film trailer.
Here again, the question comes down to a calculation of emotions: by using three main feelings (surprise, tension, fear) as a basis, it is mechanically possible to build an effective trailer that is true to human creativity.

A revolution in content via AI?

Admittedly, however, there are two opposing camps, as demonstrated during the various battles: for some, it is not possible to reinvent the rules of screenwriting, nor new structures of entertainment. Admittedly, AI brings value to creation, to the communication of the final product as well as to the mechanism itself. It changes users’ experience through a more natural interaction (Manuel Bedouet cites the example of a backpack in an adventure game, whose contents would have been accessible a few years ago via a menu but can now be accessed by moving a hand behind the character’s back). In themselves, the arguments in favor show an improvement in productivity but not in content: technology participates only tacitly in the creative process.

Once the “wow” factor had passed, a series of questions arose regarding the way in which we can use these technologies and the space we will need to make for artificial intelligence in the coming years.

Philosophy, or the role of Mankind in choosing his destiny

As Cyrille Chaudoit magnificently demonstrated in his keynote, the role in our societies for artificial intelligence, and more broadly for new technologies, raises questions about the place of mankind in the hierarchy of life’s different components. It highlights a whole set of contradictions that go well beyond the mere confrontation of man versus machine.

AI also raises the question of trans-humanism: are we ready and willing to use technology to dispense with death and chance? To reconsider everything we know about genetic diversity and human evolution?

Do we want to entrust our destiny to a Deus Ex Machina capable of finding solutions to our purely human, existential problems through the use of logic? Is this what we really want – we who, ourselves, are unable to advance the human cause and condition?
The first experiments conducted by Microsoft and its robot Tay were less than encouraging, as “he” became racist, anti-Semitic and sexist in under 24 hours.

The most recent ongoing projects also raise the issue of Nature versus Technology, thus mimicking the myth of Prometheus. Observing that the gods had provided Man with no means to hunt or defend himself, he stole the sacred fire from them and gifted it to the inhabitants of Earth. Likewise, the speaker recalled that the appropriation of a new tool through progress implies its creation, as well as the permanent elevation of Man to the level of the tool.


Ethics, or remaining master of the value judgment

Early thoughts dating back to the 1940s

The dilemma of the tramway is one of the founding theories for every question that relates to the place of robots in society. Suppose five people find themselves on the tracks of a tram racing towards them, and you have the ability to divert the tram onto a secondary track on which there is only one person. Do you choose, in the available time, to divert the tram? Is your choice based on the value of a human life, in which you tell yourself that one life is worth less than five? If so, by how much? The results show that guinea pigs subjected to this impossible choice opt for fatality, and prefer to not act at all in this situation.

These ethical considerations are not unlike the laws of robotics expounded upon by Isaac Azimov. But if we make a robot autonomous, endowed with something akin to human thought, can we consider it to have human responsibility and is therefore subject to justice, or is it still considered to be a mere tool?

Man’s responsibility over machine

The responsibility of the Tesla Motors company was also raised during the battle, as there has already been a death caused by one if its driverless vehicles. But how many deaths occur in road accidents every day? Using these principles as a starting point, how do we teach machines emotions, empathy and – why not – love, as well as where to place the cursor in the event of an accident? Does the designer’s level of responsibility diminish as the number of intermediaries increases?

Like a knife that wounds or helps prepare a meal, artificial intelligence is a science with vast applications, whose ins and outs are only beginning to be understood. Surprisingly creative or a plagiarist incapable of invention, a weapon of war or a powerful remedy against cancer – it is up to us and our decisions of a quasi-political nature to channel this Deus Ex Machina that has been assembled from scratch by Man.

Sources: JC Monot / TV Rennes / 20 Minutes / Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

AI and Video — One Foot in Rennes, One Foot in the Future

Last year saw our winning recipe for the very first Digital Tech Conference. In 2016 we’ve done it again, combing all the ingredients of high-quality content, perfect settings, and a convivial atmosphere that made the first edition a resounding success.

Though the quantities remain unchanged, we’ve taken the recipe one step further by adding leading speakers and offering a day of total immersion on a fascinating topic. With artificial intelligence on the menu, who’s up for seconds?

“Just the beginning”

In many ways, one might say it concerns every sector – but in practical terms? Attending Digital Tech is a way of hitting the pause button, to reflect and draw inspiration on topics that matter. Do you tend to click your days away, not always taking the time to read every last word? What you need is to settle into a movie theater and focus on the big screen!

Today, we’ve imagined a future in which cancer is a chronic illness, art opens new doors and movies are peopled with hoards of extras… The reality is that it’s already the case and the Golaem demonstration did much to convince us, recreating our lunch outing in Rennes’ Place de la Mairie live… Games of Thrones and Walking Dead best be on their guard!

AI: Creativity and debate

At Digital Tech, we also leave room for discussion – over breaks, of course, but also on stage during our battle of the ideas: Is artificial intelligence well-meaning for humans? Is technology revolutionizing the world of recreational content? Two teams faced off to defend different points of view through debate, reflection and learning – as well as a bit of gentle teasing. We’re starting to think it would be a good idea to standardize the format!

Creativity was also an important part of the day’s menu. John Smith and others reminded us that we can already use these new tools to create, invent and find new solutions to our problems and new uses in daily life – oft-heard words that take on new meaning when they come to life before our very eyes! With Olga Pankova, this was done though color and music with Empereur Renard, for a sample of entertainment art that made us want to put on a virtual helmet and join in by her side… Maybe next time?

Speaking of art and music, a Digital Tech Conference worthy of its name doesn’t end with a curtain call at the Rennes Opera House… but after a few watts in the halls of TransMusicales. When we asked Emilie Lacroix [Les Trans Director of Communication] how this perennial favorite sets itself apart from other festivals, she replied: “Girl power!” We like that, too 🙂

La Digital Tech Conference by La French Tech Rennes St Malo is back in Rennes on Friday, December 2, 2016

Following the success of its first edition held in December 2015, which attracted over 400 participants, 46 speakers and 26 partners, La French Tech Rennes St Malo will be hosting the second Digital Tech Conference in Rennes on December 2nd. Featured topics: artificial intelligence and video.

This major event dedicated to emerging digital trends will begin at 9AM at the Opéra de Rennes, then continue at the Trans Musicales. It aims to help participants understand the uses of tomorrow through keynotes, artistic performances related to digital technologies and many debates.

We look forward to seeing you at 9:00AM on Friday, December 2, 2016
At Opéra de Rennes,
Place de la Mairie, 35000 Rennes