AI to take centre stage at conference in Christchurch

Christoph Bartneck. Photo: Supplied
Christoph Bartneck. Photo: Supplied
How people interact with robots and virtual characters will be the hot topic at an international conference booked for Christchurch next year.

Canterbury University has won a bid to host the International Conference on Human-Agent Interaction (HAI) in December 2022.

Associate Professor at UC’s Human Interface Technology Laboratory (HIT Lab NZ) Christoph Bartneck has led the bid.

The conference, which will be held at UC’s Ilam campus with support from Tourism New Zealand and ChristchurchNZ, will attract up to 200 computer science, psychology, robotics and design academics from around the world.

Bartneck said the conference will cover various forms of technology that people interact with, such as robots, avatars or screen-based virtual characters, including Alexa and Siri.

“The focus is on how people interact with technology and it brings together the latest research on interaction design techniques. It’s a long-running annual conference but this will be the first time it’s been held in New Zealand.

“I’ve attended in the past and it’s really interesting and potentially ground-breaking. For it to be hosted at UC puts the university and New Zealand on the map. It’s a new area for New Zealand, but it’s a growing market and there are lots of opportunities for Kiwi companies and researchers to get involved. The world is definitely open to us.”

UC has a new AI (artificial intelligence) research group investigating topics such as artificial consciousness, AI and agriculture, and education AI. The group hosted an inaugural AI conference at UC last December.

Associate Professor Bartneck says it’s possible part of the 2022 event – likely to be three or four days long – will be held online depending on the Covid-19 situation, but he is optimistic many international academics will want to attend in person.