Some of the world's brightest minds have arrived in Port Macquarie to discuss how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help regional Australia.
Among these thought leaders is global Vice President of Research at Meta (Facebook) Professor Yaser Sheikh.
Speaking to the Port News, he described what it is like being on the frontline during the rise of AI.
"It's been a very exciting time over the past couple of years to see AI mature into an area that can affect people's lives," he said. "Of course, we have to be responsible about it.
"A lot of long-standing problems that we've been grappling with for decades finally seem to be showing some progress with the help of AI."
The Digital Image Computing: Techniques and Applications (DICTA) Conference 2023 is being held at Sails Resort in Port Macquarie until December 1.
This is the first time since it was established in 1991 that the conference has been held outside a major city.
"I have heard of the conference for a very long time, but this is the first time I have attended," Professor Sheikh said.
"I have been working in this area for about 20 years, and we have a lot of distinguished researchers and outstanding interns coming from Australia.
"I noted that all of them got their start at DICTA, and I expect that a lot of the attendees are the future researchers in the area, so I want to go and meet them and see what they're working on."
Among those brainstorming the future of AI are representatives of academia, local government, industry, and the student community.
Keynote speakers include professor Toby Walsh, Chief Scientist at University of NSW AI Institute; professor Nathan Jacobs at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, USA; and professor Mohammed Bennamoun at the University of Western Australia," she said.
General chair of the conference is Dr Anwaar Ulhaq, senior lecturer in the Charles Sturt University's School of Computing, Mathematics, and Engineering in Port Macquarie.
He said he was "thrilled" for it to be the first regional area to host the world-renowned event.
"I think Port Macquarie is emerging as a hub for technology, so this is a great chance to showcase that," he said.
Dr Ulhaq said a main focus in the conference was on how AI and image processing can better assist regional areas.
"This year our focus is on regional Australia and what problems we can solve," he said.
"In particular, we are focused on problems related to the agriculture space with the application of imaging and remote sensing," he said. "For example, bushfire monitoring [for] when farmers need smart technology to solve their problems.
"We are also looking at remote healthcare and using new technology to help problems relating to that industry."
Dr Ulhaq said the conference will also focus on the risks associated with AI.
"As AI is emerging as a game changing technology, at the same time we have to discuss the ethical issues of AI, such as privacy, and how to best mitigate those risks," he said.
Dr Ulhaq said the conference provides an opportunity for Charles Sturt University students to network with nearly 100 national and international researchers in the field.
"We have invited our students studying this field to meet with the leaders," he said. "It's a great opportunity for them to network as most of our students... usually have to travel to Melbourne or Sydney to do that.
"This conference is providing an opportunity for them to network right at their doorstep"
Dr Ulhaq said interest in AI and image processing has grown "significantly" in Port Macquarie in recent years.
"We are offering different curriculum and courses in the space of AI... and engaging with different schools to have a bridging program where we can mentor students to work in this space.
"It's really exciting how, for the last few years, we have had a huge interest from this community to engage in AI."
Port Macquarie's Charles Sturt Director of External Engagement, Kate Wood-Foye has called the conference's move to a regional area "groundbreaking".
"It's never been done before," she said. "The fact that it's being held in a regional area is huge because it's providing access to people who would never have had access to this knowledge before.
"This year we have high school students and industry experts who are hearing the latest research that is out there and the latest work that is being done."
IN OTHER NEWS: