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Back to the future as WW2 codebreaker ‘speaks’ at AI Festival

WW2 codebreaker Tommy Flowers AI speaks at festival
WW2 codebreaker Tommy Flowers AI speaks at festival

The inaugural AI Festival, broadcast live from Adastral Park, made a striking debut, by bringing to life a British pioneer. The unique event, created by Suffolk based Orbital Global and BT, also hosted a wide range of keynote talks by leading companies, such as Facebook, Google, and AstraZeneca.

Esteemed British electronics engineer, Tommy Flowers, who designed and built Colossus, the world’s first programmable electronic computer, appeared as a hyper-realistic avatar. Tommy’s work was crucial in decrypting German messages during World War II, which is thought to have saved countless lives and considerably shortened the war.

In the video, which you can see below, ‘Tommy’s avatar’ says: “Never did I imagine that my work would ultimately lead to silicon chips, quantum computing, artificial intelligence, and me being recreated as an AI-generated avatar. However, my work lives on in your smartphones, iPads, and desktop computers. It’s a testament to the fact humanity can scale the greatest heights during the darkest of circumstances. It’s a wonderful legacy that I hope inspires others and provides hope.”

Almost 1,700 delegates, from all over the world, secured tickets for the two-day event, which featured over 60 speakers in keynote presentations, seminars, industry workshops, fireside chats and demonstration showcases. World leading experts shared their experiences and predictions for the future across key industries such as healthcare, agriculture, energy, finance, the arts, and much more.

Former NASA scientist, Peter Scott, who worked for the space agency’s famed Jet Propulsion Laboratory, spoke about the future of AI and technology, in a lucid and engaging keynote session, entitled ‘Moving our AI relationship from “It’s Complicated” to “Engaged”. Peter said. “What an amazing program AI Festival offered. The event provided an important opportunity to highlight the importance of developing trust in AI. This can principally be achieved through industry forging a partnership with people whose lives will be transformed by this amazing new technology.”

Peter Brady, CEO of Orbital Global and VirtTuri said: “We are so proud that, in its first year, the AI Festival was able to bring together an amazing array of world-leading speakers to address the impact of AI across a range of sectors. It clearly highlighted the amazing depth of commercial and research activity taking place in the East of England, marking the region out as a global AI hub.”

Lisa Perkins, BT Director of Research Realisation and Adastral Park, added: “The AI Festival was everything we hoped it would be, bringing together industry leaders and fantastic companies from the region in a fun, engaging and interactive event, which really enabled the audience to understand how AI can truly be applied now and in the future. It’s clear that in the East of England we have some world-class companies, technology clusters and universities who will play a significant role in AI in the future.”

The event, which happened on February 24-25, was co-founded by Orbital Global and BT, is sponsored by a range of businesses and organisations including: Eastern Academic Health Science Network (EAHSN), New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, Suffolk County Council, University of Essex, University of East Anglia, University of Suffolk, and VirtTuri.

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