Aftermath: Natural Language Understanding Conference

NLUCON (The 'almost sold out' Banner πŸ˜›)

Our main event for the Winter semester as part of the AI Society was NLUCON, short for Natural Language Understanding Conference. The venue was packed with over 120 people and frankly it went even better than expected :)

The goal

Bring together some of Montreal’s natural language understanding and artificial intelligence leaders under the same roof to discuss contemporary research in NLU as well as its potential and already realized roles in enterprises and in society. We also wanted to give the community an opportunity to interact with experts and each other through a post-conference networking event.

The event

Speakers πŸ”ˆ

We managed to regroup an amazing list of speakers from different backgrounds, and the talks included information for beginners and experts alike. Very balanced and informative I must say 😊.

  • Professor Sabine Bergler, founder of the Computational Linguistics Lab at Concordia, talked about NLP & DNNs.

  • Mathieu Fortier, AI/NLP team lead at Keatext, talked about challenges in NLP and their potential solutions, and how to design AI for customer happiness.

  • Sydney Swaine-Simon from NeuroTechX dove deep into the impact of NLU on Society with a fun presentation (as always!).

  • Finally Hector Palacios, Senior Research Scientist at Nuance, closed it off with an awesome technical presentation about the research being done at Nuance, including the challenges faced and applications being deployed.

  • Oh and I slid in there right in the middle with a presentation on how anyone can build a chatbot with little knowledge thanks to some easy to use tools offered by leaders in NLU πŸ˜‰ It was aimed at bridging the gap between the most technical attendees and beginners in the field, or non-computer science or linguistics backgrounds. The timing of the presentation was fitting and helped transition between topics (luckily πŸ˜…).

Networking 🎷

In the middle of the talks there was a short break for food & coffee. The team was mostly scrambling to make sure everything stays organized and on time, but the rest of the attendees seemed to make the most of the break to talk about job opportunities and how good the pizza was πŸ˜ƒ

Post-conference we moved to another area, where we had a band setup (one of our team member’s very own indie rock band 😎), snacks & drinks, and more. It was a fairly formal and enjoyable setting, judging by the fact that most people stayed for more than the allocated time. At this point the team & I finally had some time to relax and just enjoy the setting. The room was full of incredibly smart people and I personally had a blast engaging in many thoughtful conversations.


NLU Conference

Every big event has challenges: venue, ticket sale, getting speakers, catering, logistics, etc., but time and time again I absolutely love working on these kind of events. Finding issues and taking initiative, working as a team, getting people together, seeing your plan come to fruition and making people genuinely enjoy their time; so satisfying. I’m really proud of the work we did as a team. We started off worried about not selling enough tickets, but ended up having to limit the number of tickets available because the amount of interest vastly exceeded the venue size. I really wanted to put a picture of the whole AISC team here but we were working so hard we forgot to take a group picture Β―\_(ツ)_/Β―. We’ll take one soon πŸ˜‰.