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Ai4 2023 Conference | IT in AV

On August 8th and August 9th, I was lucky enough to attend the 2023 Ai4 conference that was held at MGM Conference Center located in Las Vegas. For those that might not know, the Ai4 conference is a conference focused on artificial intelligence. This was my first time attending this conference and here is my take.

The Con

Let's turn our focus to the conference itself.  Before I dive into the positive of the conference I would like to note some of the cons.  The conference was jam-packed with sessions but they did not build a buffer between sessions. This means that if a session ends at 9:20 the next one starts at 9:20. With each session being 20 mins to 40 mins in length this took a good amount of time away as folks were leaving and coming. Also taking time to switch out the presenters. Not only was there no time between sessions but there was no registration cap for sessions. I attended multiple sessions where every chair in the room was taken, folks were standing along all three walls and even spilling out into the hallway.  This made it even harder to get from one session to another. 

The Pro

Now that we looked at the issues let's look at some of the pros of the event. The mobile app they use was very simple and easy to use. I could easily pull up the whole schedule and if I saw one that piqued my interest I could add it to my schedule on the fly. This made it easy to add and remove sessions. Not only could you see all the sessions but when a session was going on, there was a time bar letting you know it was going on and about how much time was remaining. The last thing I would like to note was that at the end of each session, that was on my session list, I would get a message to fill out the survey for the session. Beside information about sessions the app also had a networking option where you could message and connect with other attendees and could even schedule 1:1 meetings with people. It was very nice having this built right in the app. 

The Sessions

Over the two days I attended about 12 different sessions. Some of the sessions were a joke as they were nothing but a sales pitch and didn’t really have anything to do with the subject at hand. Other sessions I will fully admit were over my head.  They talked about terms that I had no clue and subjects that I had no clue about. I would not say these sessions were wasteful as they pointed out areas which I need to learn more; it is just that I wouldn’t be able to apply anything from the sessions until I have a better understanding. Now a couple of the sessions had good content and good speakers. The first one I would like to talk about is AI and the Future of the Workplace. The presenter was Alice Fournier who is the CIO of ISS Americas. Alice talked about how data from facilities is very powerful but the issue is it is also noisy. Using AI can help clear the noise and make the data easier to use. One aspect she mentioned is using AI to better allocate space in a building. For example, the ‘old way’ of allocating a space was normally by someone’s title or how long they were there.  If you were a manager, director, or c-suite you would normally have a corner office with windows. With AI a facility can better track the use of spaces and allocate space based on use and not just title. Another session that I enjoyed was the Fireside Chat: Automation vs Augmentation with Tim Coleman and John Lynn. They talked about how some folks are looking at AI and asking ‘Are you taking my job’ while the boots on the ground are looking at AI and saying ‘Please take my job as I am doing three people's jobs’ They went on to talk about using AI to help take the burden off employees

Now I can’t end this article without talking about higher education at the event.  There was very little higher education at this event. In fact, there were only 3 sessions, out of 100s, focused on higher education. Yes, I attended the three sessions, and here is a quick summary of those.  The first one was Artificial Intelligence In Education: Teaching CS50 At Harvard With AI. David Malan was the one who gave this session as he is the professor for CS50 at Harvard. He talked about their CS50 program and how they are using different plug-ins to help with programming. They use an AI plug-in called style50 which is to review code and lets you know if it is in the proper style or not.  It will not correct your code, just let you know if it follows the proper style or not. Another thing that David talked about was their duck bot. He gave the story of the duck and how it went from a physical duck to a chatbot that only quacked back, to a chatbot that will help but again not provide the answer. Another higher education session I attended was Harnessing AI For Education So All Students Benefit by Sal Khan. I did not enjoy this session as much as it was only focused on Khan University and how they are using AI in their program. What they are doing is nice but again was focused just within their environment.  The last session I attended was a roundtable titled AI Changing Higher Education. This session was run by Karen Ivy, Assistant Dean - Technology Studies at the University of Arizona Global Campus, and Mike Hayden, Program Chair at the University of Arizona Global Campus. I found this to be the best session that I attended over the two days. It was an open discussion on how schools are using AI, which was many, how schools would like to use AI, and concerns about using AI in higher education. The most interesting thing I found about this session was that Ai4 told them not to have the session at first. They told them ‘maybe next year’ but after Karen showed them that there were 202 different education partners registered for the conference they needed more higher education sessions. At the end of the roundtable, Karen mentioned that higher education needs to get more voices at conferences like Ai4 and others.  Right away I thought about how HETMA was doing this and could be a partner in helping this movement for many different types of conferences. 

In closing the Ai4 conference was a nice one to attend. AI is not something we need to be scared of but something we need to learn to use properly. We need to make sure there are the correct guardrails in place that this tool can be beneficial to our students and school.