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DeepFest Kicks Off with Debut of a Humanoid Robot

The four-day event will wrap up on March 7th.

By Inc.Arabia Staff
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The region's premiere AI event DeepFest commenced its second edition at the Riyadh Exhibition and Convention Centre in the Saudi capital's Malham district today. 

Co-located with LEAP, the world's most-attended tech event, and powered by the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA), DeepFest brings together over 150 leading AI experts and 120 global AI companies.

“The way AI is set to transform the way we live, and survive, in the future couldn’t have been laid out any clearer in today’s packed DeepFest Main Stage agenda. From life-saving drugs being discovered in a matter of minutes to cross-border collaborations to ensure AI becomes a one-for-all and not an all-for-some, uniting world-renowned industry pioneers in Saudi Arabia to drill down into these topics is what will help drive the ecosystem forward,” said Michael Champion, CEO of Tahaluf and co-founder of LEAP.

A joint venture between Informa PLC, the world’s largest tradeshow organizer, the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones (SAFCSP), and the ​​Events Investment Fund (EIF), Tahaluf is responsible for Saudi Arabia's biggest events, including LEAP, DeepFest, Black Hat MEA, and Cityscape Global

A highlight of the inaugural day was the debut appearance of Mohammad the Humanoid Robot, the latest creation from QSS Systems. Mohammad, the male counterpart of SARA, Saudi Arabia's first humanoid robot, captivated the audience with flawless Arabic and expressive gestures on DeepFest's Main Stage.

Also on 4 March, the DeepMedia Stage featured Waseem Sayegh, Head of Live Ops at TikTok METAP, discussing TikTok's role in reshaping media landscapes. Sayegh highlighted how TikTok serves as a platform for showcasing Saudi culture to a global audience and fostering partnerships, relationships, and careers for regional creators.

Meanwhile, Omar Hatamleh, Chief Advisor of AI and Innovation at NASA, delivered a thought-provoking presentation touching on various AI-related topics, from racial and gender bias to the potential societal impacts of advanced technologies.

Gary Sorrentino, the Global CIO at Zoom Inc., urged the audience to remember that the employees returning to work post-pandemic are not the same employees that left 4 years ago.  “There is a whole new economy of ‘New Collar Workers’ coming up, and they are becoming a challenge for employers today because they have proved they can do high-level work as well as showing they do not need to do it in an office,” said the New York-based executive.

Closing his presentation, Sorrentino pointed to previous technological advancements, urging corporate leaders to learn from the past. “When it comes to AI, you can’t just turn it on. You need to figure out how to operationalize it. How are you going to get the most value out of it?” he said. “Rather than just give your employees technology, you need to teach them how to use it. Look at spreadsheets. The most famous spreadsheet software was created 30-something years ago, yet we still only use two percent of it. Let’s hope we do better with AI.”

Scott and David Penberthy. Courtesy of LEAP.

Can AI prevent cancer? 

The second day of DeepFest saw American siblings Scott and David Penberthy take to the stage in a talk titled "How AI is Changing Diagnostics, Drug Discovery, and Personalized Care." The brothers discussed AI's potential to prevent diseases like cancer and uncover new drugs within minutes. The duo noted that, while cancer is being diagnosed earlier, 30-40 million people will have developed cancer by 2035, creating a need to use predictive AI earlier to identify preventive measures. 

AI can't cure all

On the DeepMedia Stage, a panel discussion about women and AI in media on 5 March brought together Mariam AlMheira, public policy manager for the GCC at Meta; Hellen Fullen, managing director at the Ireland-based early stage venture development for female entrepreneurs Alinea; and founder of Bahraini startup Women4Impact Sahar Albaharna. The women, who discussed the various challenges of female entrepreneurs and women in business, agreed that they were all looking forward to a time when women's panels became obsolete--and unnecessary. They also agreed that AI cannot replace everything--as evidenced by the need for human contact at DeepFest and LEAP 2024. 

But it will change our lives

On DeepFest's main stage, CEO and president of the New York Academy of Sciences Nicholas Dirks spoke about how AI and LLMs are changing the social fabric of life, driving decision-making in our everyday lives. The result: It could either increase our faith in machines or create deep-rooted distrust in them. 

With 2 days left to go, DeepFest's agenda will see a line-up of talks, panels, fireside chats, and keynotes from industry leaders like Google, Meta, the US Chamber of Commerce, and Noon, alongside live demonstrations, training sessions, and startup pitches.

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