Data Science Ireland Review: An Evening of Emotions, Trees and Data Mining

It was a packed house at Huckletree last Wednesday evening as more inspirational speakers presented their fascinating insights at the first Data Science Ireland meetup of 2019.

Kicking off proceedings was Paul Walsh, founder of Nsilico and the SIGMA Machine Learning Research Group. The main focus of Paul’s talk this evening was in regards to how Machine Learning techniques can be applied to help Artificial Intelligence recognize human facial expressions and how this can be applied to improve healthcare for those suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Paul gave a video demonstration of the software in action using one of his current PhD students, along with footage many of the attendees were familiar with, such as footage of Barack Obama and Donald Trump. The footage demonstrated how the software could accurately identify emotions expressed through facial expressions instantaneously.

Paul also went on to talk about how this software has been tested with patients suffering from Alzheimer’s with mostly positive results. Paul discussed how the software – “Grad-Cam” – can pinpoint the area of the face responsible for the emotion being identified.

The second speaker of the evening was Niamh Donnelly. Niamh discussed her AI Award winning project “CNNs Predicting Canopy Coverage in Urban Areas of Dublin”. Niamh began by introducing herself to the attendees and noted that after concluding her last talk, she could overhear people discussing her project but referring to her as “Tree Girl”.

Niamh discussed in detail how she used Machine Learning to identify and differentiate between the colour of pixels (e.g. grass versus tree) and Google Earth Engine to identify individual trees around the Dublin area. Initially, I wasn’t sure of the point behind this, but as her talk progressed Niamh managed to engage me in understanding the potential for her tech. This is something I must give Niamh credit for as it was a testament to how engaging she is as a speaker.

Niamh mentioned that the success of her project would not have been possible without the support she had with her for the journey. She also offered advice to all who were considering embarking on their own study to choose something that offers social and/or environmental benefits, to prepare for setbacks and to view them as challenges that offer an opportunity to learn, and finally to choose a supervisor with whom you get on well with and that shares similar values.

The final speaker of the evening was Kevin Feeney, CEO at Data Chemist. Kevin spoke at length about how his company is contracted by big corporations for matters such as, for example, during the hiring process assessing if a candidate is related to a member of the board of directors.

Kevin’s talk shed light on how Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence can be and has been, applied within businesses to accommodate them in the understanding of data that has accumulated over the years and saved in formats that are now outdated.

The technology developed by Kevin and his team at Data Chemist applies the power of Machine Learning and AI mine through the data allowing for businesses to make sense and use of it – a process either very difficult or impossible, even for the most experienced in the field.

A big thank you to all the speakers for their fascinating presentations and to all our guests who came along to Huckletree. I know there was a lot (A LOT!!) of valuable insights and plenty of new networking opportunities gained at the first of many Data Science Ireland meetups set for 2019.

Next month, we are celebrating our first anniversary of the Data Science Ireland meetup. More details will be announced soon.

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