HKUST-MSRA Cup advocates application of AI among college students

Jointly sponsored by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) and Microsoft Research Asia (MSRA), and locally organized by MSRA-HKUST Ministry of Education Key Lab under Big Data Institute (BDI) of HKUST, the HKUST-MSRA Cup (the Cup) saw its final round presentations and finale on 2 December 2016 (Friday) at HKUST campus.

With the purpose of motivating undergraduate and postgraduate students all over Hong Kong and Macau to apply Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques and ideas to tackle real life problems, the Cup's competition has been fierce from the very beginning. A Call for Participants invitation has been sent out back in early October to all universities in these two cities, encouraging students to challenge themselves on "big ideas of AI" by using latest cool AI technologies to change the world, with technical support provided by MSRA. Fourteen proposals were received from seven universities, from which the academic reviewing panel has selected nine teams that can enter the final round.

Dr. Tieyan Liu of MSRA kicked off the finale by giving a talk on challenges and Opportunities in Deep Learning. After which the event was unveiled by the officiating hosts Prof. Tim Cheng, Dean of School of Engineering (SENG), and Prof. Qiang Yang, Head of Department of Computer Science and Engineering cum Director of BDI, HKUST.

Prof. Tim CHENG, Dean of Engineering

Prof. Tim CHENG, Dean of Engineering

Prof. Cheng welcomed the teams from different universities and thanked MSRA for its long term support and collaborations with HKUST. "This competition is particularly meaningful, thank you all for taking the initiatives to take part. AI is a very fascinating and hot topic these days in our society. Everyone is pushing for innovation, and any innovation is created for a purpose, that is what we engineers are always adhered to. Being in the research fields for more than 30 years, I always emphasize three important grounds of every research, first it must be interesting, then it must be novel, and finally it better be useful and has its application. All teams are here to show us your innovative ideas, I hope you have enjoyed going through these research and creative stages in this competition. No matter what the final result is, it is the process that is more important," he said. "Please enjoy working in this topic in the spotlight. While you may find life not so hard when working in popular topics like AI, do always remember that quality is more important than how fancy the topic is, because eventually in the downturn of all popular topics, which are meant to go through its ups and downs cycle, it is the strongest ones who are going to stay."

Prof. Qiang YANG, Head of CSE Department

Prof. Qiang YANG, Head of CSE Department

"Indeed there has been tremendous interest in the area of AI and big data, that is why the Big Data Institute has been formed a year ago," seconded Prof. Yang at his opening speech following Prof. Cheng's. "That is a joint initiative that glues together different departments such as us, the Computer Science and Engineering, Mathematics, Industrial Engineering and Logistics Management, and Business School under the same umbrella. We want to apply the knowledge to other domains and enhance its impact to eventually benefit a much wider audience across industries." He further introduced some of the major projects undergoing in BDI at present, including the WeChat-HKUST joint AI Laboratory, Smart City projects that examines how crucial transport issues faced by metropolis can be tackled and studies how to improve people's livelihood by creating a people-aware city framework. Also there is a new MSc course on Big Data Technology that has overwhelming 600 plus applications received and eventually admitted less than 100 students.

"And there are more to come under BDI in time," added Prof. Yang. "All these growing impacts lie on the crucial support from our industry partners, such as our long term collaborator MSRA. We have many students working there, many others starting their own companies with MSRA's support, etc. I myself was the first visiting scholar at MSRA too. Our interwoven relationship would surely strengthen further and we are keen to see more initiatives such as this HKUST-MSRA Cup in the future."

Prof. Lei Chen, who organized the Cup with MSRA, then kicked off the final presentation rounds by inviting the first team from University of Hong Kong. Each of the nine final teams was given 20 minutes to present their ideas at the competition ground, ranging from 3D printing, emotion tracking tool, intelligent entertainment, smart home, language detector, intelligent note taker, among other AI topics.

The judging panel was amazed by the creativity of all the teams and had a difficult time selecting the winner. Eventually HKUST University's team composed of Mr. Long Ting Pang and Ho King Tsan Wong took the champion out of all the outstanding teams with their project on "Foodology". The team composed of HKU and CUHK students won the second place with their project "Noted - the Intelligent Note Taker". The third place went to another HKUST team with their project "NetworkUP". The team from Macau won "the most innovated award". An award and mingling dinner was then held at HKUST Conference Lodge to announce the results and everyone enjoyed the evening sharing their insights on AI applications with one another.

During the dinner, Dr. Winnie Cui, the UR manager of MSRA, praised the HKUST for organizing such a wonderful event and thanked the support from SENG and BDI. She wished the collaboration between HKUST and MSRA will lead to more fruitful and impactful results in the near future. Prof. Tim Cheng, Dean of the Engineering, gave his thanks to the support from MSRA once again and encouraged students to participate more in these events in the future and keep in mind about insisting his/her dream during their careers.

(top left) Dr. Winnie CUI, UR Manager of MSRA

Read more information about the competition of HKUST-MSRA Cup.