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Pioneering Artificial Intelligence at AUT

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I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with one of our longstanding clients, AUT, and speaking to Tasleem Hussein (Taz) and Tim Davison (Architects). Tim and Taz recently won the Overall Innovation Award at the Microsoft Tertiary ICT Innovation Awards for Artificial Intelligence, for their AI bot ‘NINA’, that works like a personal digital assistant for AUT students and staff.

I asked them about how they came up with NINA, and unsurprisingly the inspiration sprang from a deep-seated interest and passion for technology. “We’ve always been big followers of news around technology and how it can improve our current environment,” said Taz. “After having personal experience around the registration processes at universities and how it’s so multifaceted and sometimes it’s hard to get information, we were sparked to do something.”

“One night we’d had some social drinks after work, and before you know it, it was 3AM and we had a concept in place, which we continued to work on after work,” said Tim.

However, though the new project was exciting, it also brought some challenges along with it. “Trying to cope with the day to day tasks as well as working on the project brought about lots of internal interest for different departments in AUT,” said Tim. “That meant putting in a lot of hours after work, as well as dealing with the trial and error phases that come part and parcel with a new leading edge technology stack.”

Though these trials and tribulations can be challenging to deal with, having a supportive work environment can be a big help. “We always get great support from the team at AUT,” said Taz. “It’s good to work for an organisation that gives back to society and has the remit to make the student experience by being flexible and bringing newer technology through.”

On whether AI is one of those technologies with the potential to help a wide array of people, Taz and Tim’s answers were unwavering. “AI has gained so much speed and growth, breaking down barriers between people and computers,” said Taz. “AIs have the ability to give computers a more human like feel, being the middleman between data and people. We’re hearing a lot of talk about AI in the finance sector, with the banks, and we can really see it growing rapidly in the private sector in the next few years.”

Taz and Tim, however, aren’t done exploring the tech landscape yet. “Every day is different and comes with new projects and new challenges,” said Tim. “We work in a really agile way, so we’re constantly refining, enhancing and investigating new technology.”

“Then we see how we can work with that technology, and incorporate it to make people’s lives better.”

In Summary

Thanks to Taz and Tim for taking the time to chat with me, and congratulations once again on your award-winning work!

If you’re looking for talented tech gurus like Taz and Tim, feel free to get in touch.