AI brings fun to online academic meeting

HANGZHOU, Oct. 27 (Xinhua) — Over 300 scholars in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) have attended an industry conference set in an online game, which creates a novel, immersive experience with AI-powered technologies.

Running from Oct. 24 to Oct. 27, the 2nd International Conference on Distributed Artificial Intelligence (DAI 2020) takes the form of Justice Online, a role-playing game developed by Chinese company NetEase, Inc.

Over a dozen functions including embedded PPT-demonstration and text and audio chat are available in the immersive system, allowing attendees like A.M. Turing Award laureate John E. Hopcroft, who is also a foreign academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, to mingle with global peers in a martial arts fantasy world set in the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127).

Scholars are able to switch between different sub-conferences in real-time to join a wide range of discussions on the latest AI developments. They are also free to dance, take tea breaks, and even shoot fireworks on the sidelines of the meetings in the virtual world.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, online virtual meetings have become a new normal in the world of academia.

Yu Yang, a professor with Nanjing University who is participating in the conference, spoke highly of the immersive conference system developed by NetEase as it has removed some major restrictions in video meetings.

For example, said Yu, the system enables the realization of poster presentation, an important part of physical meetings where scholars gather around a poster of an academic paper’s abstract to exchange ideas about its content.

Li Renjie, who leads the NetEase Fuxi Lab, told Xinhua that his team had adopted a series of AI technologies such as virtual character customization and cloud gaming to create the system. They were also inspired by an American scholar who in July held an online meeting inside the hit life-simulation game Animal Crossing: New Horizons developed by Japanese company Nintendo.

“AI brings more possibilities to our lives,” said Li. “Someday soon we shall be able to hold weddings on the moon or attend fashion shows under the sea, all through the immersive virtual system created by AI technologies.”

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