‘A natural step’: Lakehead panel tackles a future where AI is a reality – BradfordToday

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Lakehead University hosted a panel discussion on the uses, threats, and opportunities that exist with the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) on Wednesday evening.

The discussion was a collaborative initiative of a regional manufacturing partnership between the City of Barrie, County of Simcoe, City of Orillia, Georgian College, and Lakehead University.

Andrew Dean, the vice president of research and innovation for Lakehead University, says the panel was meant to connect researchers with local businesses.

“These panels bring industry, university, government, and outside experts together,” he said. “I hope people walk away from this with information about how AI can help them develop their business to be more efficient, effective, and secure.”

Emily Baillie, a digital marketing and AI trainer for Compass Content Marketing, spoke to the panel about how to optimize an organization using AI.

“People can use tools like ChatGPT, DALL·E, image makers, and copyrighting to create content at scale, boost productivity, and reach their marketing goals faster,” she said. “It can help with brainstorming, outlines for blog posts, emails, and social media posts.”

While Baillie says AI can vastly improve a business, there are risks to consider.

“You need to be cautious with AI,” she said. “There are ethical issues and it’s important for people to know how to use it safely and properly.”

When using AI, Baillie says users should fact-check “everything.”

“It can create misinformation,” she said. “It can create a lot of errors which is why there always needs to be a human oversight.”

Baillie says AI is a tool that needs to be trained, just the same as a business would train a new employee.

“You have to give it context and specific information,” she said. “You have to give it specific direction and feedback.”

For some industries, Baillie says those who don’t adapt to using AI could lag behind their competition.

“A lot of organizations right now are expected to do more with less because the economy is tight,” she said. “That’s where AI can come in and boost productivity and allow your staff to work on higher-level tasks that require human emotion and creativity.”

Baillie says AI is a great tool for market research purposes.

“It’s not going to be 100 per cent accurate all of the time and that’s the only catch,” she said. “It can certainly help to synthesize information.”

Thiago Oliveira, an assistant professor in computer science at Lakehead University, specializing in robotics, was also a speaker at Wednesday’s event that was part of Research and Innovation Week at Lakehead’s Orillia campus.

“I believe the next focus for AI algorithms, research, and applications will be in robotics,” he said.

Oliveira says AI efforts focused on computer algorithms for the past two decades.

“That is mostly solved right now,” he said. “AI pushed a lot of advances in that field.”

Now, Oliveira expects AI efforts to be put into the physical interactions that are had between “agents that are intelligent and their surroundings.”

In terms of research, Oliveira says AI can help solve problems that can’t be solved with traditional methods. He says business owners should adopt AI as part of their business.

“If they don’t, they will stay behind,” he said. “It is a natural step to invest in systems that can turn AI into part of their business.”

Ryan Lay, the manager of economic development for the City of Orillia, says it’s important for the community to hear from industry leaders from across the region such as Baillie and Oliveira.

“It’s great when they can share their expertise on leveraging AI for growth and efficiency,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for businesses throughout the region to come here and learn from these leaders who have been using AI.”

Lay hopes local businesses will take what they learned on Wednesday back to their respective industries to improve their growth and proficiency.

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