The 2019 Silicon Valley Executive Summit opened on Tuesday with a deep, closed-door series of sessions on artificial intelligence and current trends that permeate tech and venture capital right now. Much of the day’s presentations was off the record, but the room’s sense of heightened interest in AI and deep learning was evident in a presentation given by Pieter Abbeel, the founder and chief scientist at Covariant.ai.
“I think we will have a very big leap forward,” said Abbeel, whose Emeryville, California-based company develops AI software for teaching complex skills to robots.
Abbeel assessed that this leap may come in the field of neural net chip development. There, he speculated that advances could compensate for possible stagnation in Moore’s Law, which historically has informed speculation that computing speeds would double about every two years.
During Abbeel’s talk, he highlighted advances in neural networks and deep learning that have — in just a few years of visual learning work — enabled computers to generate “things that are almost indistinguishable” from human faces. He cited examples in projects such as thispersondoesnotexist.com and a video of a moving horse made to look like a zebra. In another video, he presented a student who was able to capture his likeness and enable it to dance in parallel with a trained ballerina.
Abbeel’s company is working to bring these technological advancements to robotics, where he sees robots not just performing repetitive tasks, but also adapting and learning how to respond to contexts they have never encountered previously. That aspiration reflected the shared sense of learning and collaboration across sectors that the summit is meant to facilitate.
Orange Silicon Valley CEO Mireille Helou put the spotlight on this collaborative goal in her welcome message to attendees, noting how the Fab Force program at OSV works to bring Orange stakeholders together with startups in the Silicon Valley community and Orange partners to accomplish great things.
Other participants in the first day of summit programming included Lalit Gurnani, Kate DelEo, and Ryan Nolan from Goldman Sachs; Nvidia VP of Engineering Claire Delaunay; Vision Fund Partner Vikas Parekh; DLA Piper Partner Craig Lang; Computable Labs CEO and co-founder Roger Chen; and Blake Raschowin, who works on business development at Pinterest.
Those speakers were joined by Orange Digital Ventures Chairman and CEO Marc Rennard, who introduced the room to the Orange Group’s activities in corporate venture capital (CVC), including the use of investment to drive contractual agreements within parts of the Orange ecosystem.
“The C of CVC doesn’t mean crazy,” Rennard noted, explaining the motivations behind Orange’s investments in startups.
The presentations were followed by breakout sessions featuring closed sessions between Fab Force partners and startups from Orange Silicon Valley’s network. The talks laid the groundwork for later programming throughout the week, including keynotes on Wednesday, a cybersecurity conference on Thursday, and one-on-one partner meetings with startups on Friday.