For Silicon Valley you don't have to get on a plane, you just have to land in Tilburg. Spoorzone Tilburg offers plenty of room for visionaries, the experts of the future. With them, we cast a glance into the crystal ball and conjure up inspiring quotes, wild ideas, cutting edge innovations and downright utopian perspectives.
Jason Oleana is data scientist at and co-founder of Genius Voice. This Tilburg-based startup has developed an innovative framework around conversational artificial intelligence. Specifically, Jason is the digital mastermind behind an intelligent chat and speech bot. An interactive widget on websites of municipalities, for example, with which you can have a conversation. But smarter than smart. So he's the dream visionary to take to task about the future of big data, (almost) human algorithms and leveraging AI to make the world a better place.
"Privacy-friendly technology will become the standard"
Jason's mission is to make the chat and voice assistant developed by Genius Voice as smart as possible. He does this, for example, by writing algorithms that learn to recognize the intentions of the user better and better. An algorithm that provides better and more appropriate answers. But - and now we are entering uncanny valley - Jason is also working on algorithms that recognize human emotions. "In the future it will become easier and easier to make a bot so smart that it feels like you're talking to a human," he says. "In practice, however, that's not what you want to achieve. Users must always know that they are interacting with a bot. I predict that voice, chat and facial recognition will come together in fifteen years in one user-friendly application. A system that recognizes expressions. That picks up vibrations in someone's voice. To then help people in the best possible way."
An impressive vision of the future. However, Jason is honest about the downside. "AI exists by the grace of data. The more data, the better the algorithm. And the greater the responsibility to handle people's data carefully! I see a truly privacy-friendly application of AI as the only correct future scenario. Acceptance of technology stands or falls with privacy. If users can trust companies to handle their data with integrity, they will accept AI solutions faster. And then it can really take off." Ultimately, data remains the big deal, Jason observes. And for breakthroughs in data and privacy, he says, we don't need to look to the tech giants of this world. "They will continue to deal with data largely the same. That's their business model. I foresee that the best innovations will come from the smaller tech companies, including here in Tilburg. There you will find a different mentality. More idealistic and transparent."
"AI is going to solve more and more societal problems"
"Artificial intelligence becomes really interesting when we can use it as a problem solver," Jason continues. "That's where we can use technology and innovation to improve the quality of our lives. Take waste management and recycling. Imagine a camera, with a smart algorithm behind it, that can distinguish between different types of waste. If you then link this to a sorting mechanism, you have a system that can separate waste ever more intelligently. Thanks to this technology, you can then recycle more efficiently. And it is easier to convert waste streams such as plastic into new raw materials. This in turn has a positive effect on CO2 emissions. And that in turn is better for the environment and therefore better for us all. Great strides are already being made in this area. But in fifteen to twenty years it will be the most normal thing in the world. There will come a time when we have largely solved the environmental problem thanks to artificial intelligence."
Jason effortlessly knots together all kinds of major social themes. And he has another one up his sleeve: "If I look at my specialization - speech technology - it is still primarily a useful feature for online customer services, for example. But the more sophisticated the system, the more it can do. At the moment, web-based digital assistants can already help people with visual impairments or low literacy levels to better navigate a website. In the future, this will be the standard. Widely deployable for a large, diverse target group. This is how AI suddenly has a positive effect on inclusivity! A theme that Genius Voice also stands for." The socially engaged data scientist is optimistic. But at the same time, he hastens to say, also realistic: "On your own, you simply cannot change the world. In the coming years it will become increasingly important to work together with various parties. Because if you work together, you strengthen each other. That way the number of great solutions will grow exponentially. By bringing different people, ideas and solutions together, you automatically create something brilliant."
"Cultures, contexts, and languages come together in one system"
"I believe that the great challenges of the future do not care about national borders. You can apply technological solutions that - for example - are developed here in Tilburg, anywhere in the world. Close cooperation is the key to making that happen. At Genius Voice, we are already using a model to transcribe different input languages into Dutch in real time. This allows the "Dutch" bot to understand questions in other languages and then translate the answer back. In time, we may thus create a polyglot (multilingual, ed.) AI that speaks more than thirty languages."
After multilingualism, Jason says the next step will undoubtedly be taken within fifteen years: "Eventually, AI - or the algorithm behind it - will also be able to recognize differences in context, culture and emotions. Such a comprehensive model is guaranteed to emerge. For this we mainly need a lot of high-quality data and powerful collaborations. If those conditions are met, this superalgorithm won't be long in coming."
"The Tilburg tech network continues to grow"
Genius Voice was born and raised in Spoorzone Tilburg. Jason and his partners in crime Luuk van Hoogstraten and Dylan Mattijssen got the idea for their startup in the Deprez building, opposite the LocHal. For the three Tilburg University students, Deprez, with its fine workplaces, was the scene of countless study and sparring sessions. Although they have their offices on the university campus, they are still very much at home in Spoorzone Tilburg. Jason explains: "We work closely with Station88 and MindLabs and regularly have consultancy meetings with larger Tilburg tech companies like Building Blocks. These are parties with a lot of knowledge and a large network, which we can make grateful use of. Fifteen years from now? Then Tilburg's technology network will be even bigger. I envision a lively Spoorzone Tilburg. Full of startups, incubators and cross-pollinations. A wonderful place where talent will stick around to build applications that make our lives better."
IQONIC represents and supports all aspects of entrepreneurship within Tilburg University. They help students, alumni, academics and employees to further develop their entrepreneurial mindset, so they can make a difference in society. They do this by stimulating and supporting creativity and innovation. Genius Voice has also been taken further by IQONIC.More IQONIC
Spoorzone Tilburg is the new and pioneering talent and innovation district of the Netherlands. Adjacent to the railway station and well connected to the city, region and country, it offers the ideal base for your company or satellite establishment. In this raw industrial area full of culture, hospitality and history in the center of the city, people are working hard on the future. It is a knowledge-driven biodome built for and by creative entrepreneurs with interactive technologies and behavior as the basis. The presence of Tilburg University, ROC and Fontys Hogescholen provides knowledge, talent and vision. The area itself is compact and sustainably developed and offers a life long stay for entrepreneurs from startup to scale-up and beyond.More Spoorzone