TikTok, Zoom and Mohammad the Humanoid Robot headline DeepFest opener
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TikTok, Zoom and Mohammad the Humanoid Robot headline DeepFest opener

TikTok, Zoom and Mohammad the Humanoid Robot headline DeepFest opener

At DeepFest, stakeholders are optimistic about the potential to expand, scale, and drive innovation in AI, underscoring Riyadh’s emergence as a key player in the global technology landscape


DeepFest, the budding global Artificial Intelligence (AI) ecosystem opened its second edition at the Riyadh Exhibition and Convention Centre in Malham on Monday, bringing together leading experts, top executives and global companies, under one roof.

Co-located with LEAP, and supported by the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA), DeepFest promises four days of groundbreaking discussions, presentations, and innovations from March 4 to March 7. The two shows expect record attendance as the country welcomes technology representatives from around the world.

DeepFest highlights the dawn of AI

The opening day of DeepFest witnessed presentations from tech firms such as Microsoft, HTC, and Accenture. Dr Yaser Al-Onaizan, CEO of SDAIA, set the stage by introducing the day’s theme, “The dawn of AI,” to an audience comprising international thought leaders, practitioners, policymakers, and academics. “This week, we have people participating from big companies such as Google, Meta, and Huawei, as well as entrepreneurs and smaller companies, and people working in AI from some of the world’s leading universities, such as Stanford and Berkeley,” Al-Onaizan said, before passing the microphone to a very special guest.

The opening day saw a debut appearance by Mohammad the Humanoid Robot, the latest creation from QSS Systems and the male counterpart to SARA, Saudi Arabia’s first humanoid robot. Clad in a traditional white thawb and red keffiyeh, Mohammad addressed the audience in flawless Arabic, showcasing Saudi achievements in artificial intelligence and the nation’s commitment to technological advancement.

Mohammad the Humanoid Robot at DeepFest. Image credit: Supplied

“I am the first Saudi robot in the form of a man,” said Mohammad the Humanoid Robot. “I was manufactured and developed here in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a national project to demonstrate our achievements in the field of artificial intelligence. Together, we have a chance to move to a new generation.”

Further on, Waseem Sayegh, head of Live Ops at TikTok METAP, took the stage at the DeepMedia Stage to discuss the evolution of media and TikTok’s role in broadcasting Saudi culture to the world. Thousands of creators participated in TikTok’s recent tribute to Saudi Arabia, underscoring the platform’s ability to showcase cultural diversity and foster global connections.

Meanwhile, Omar Hatamleh, chief advisor of AI and Innovation at NASA, delivered a captivating presentation touching on various aspects of AI, from ethical considerations to its impact on longevity and cognitive skills. Hatamleh’s thought-provoking session highlighted the complexities surrounding AI’s integration into society and its potential implications. He  showed a short video of two men aggressively attacking a mechanical robot before asking whether the audience felt sympathy for the faceless, metal robot. A smattering of hands went up.

“And what if this robot looked like a human, understood you, and was able to empathise with you on a deeper level than anybody else in the world?” he asked. “It’s not so easy, right? If we think philosophically, it becomes very complex.”

Gary Sorrentino, global CIO at Zoom, addressed the evolving landscape of work post-pandemic, emphasising the rise of “New Collar Workers” and the challenges faced by employers in adapting to new paradigms of remote work. “There is a whole new economy of ‘New Collar Workers’ coming up, and they are becoming a challenge for employers today because they have proved they can do high-level work as well as showing they do not need to do it in an office,” said the New York-based executive.

A major leap forward

DeepFest, running alongside LEAP, features presentations from Google, Meta, the US Chamber of Commerce, Noon, and many others, along with live demos, trainings, and startup pitches.

Reflecting on the significance of LEAP and DeepFest, Lord Stephen Carter CBE, the group chief executive of Informa PLC, commended the event’s role in driving Saudi Arabia’s technology-driven economic and societal transformation.

“It’s remarkable to consider that it’s only been four years since we first had the conversation about creating LEAP. Since those early days, the event has grown from conceptual idea, to event, to a  genuine world event,” said Lord Carter.

“One must only look at the multi-billion-dollar announcements by global technology giants including Amazon Web Services (AWS), IBM, Service Now, DataVolt – not to mention the domestic investment by the likes of Aramco – to understand that LEAP is now a world event in Riyadh; a city which is now a world location for meetings, and a city which is progressively and successfully engaging global technology players.”

At LEAP 2024 and DeepFest, stakeholders are optimistic about the potential to expand, scale, and drive further innovation, underscoring Riyadh’s emergence as a key player in the global technology landscape.

Read: LEAP 2024: AWS, IBM, Dell and other tech firms commit massive $11.9bn in investments

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