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University of Waikato launches AI research institute 'Te Ipu o te Mahara'

By Sara Barker, Wed 28 Apr 2021

The University of Waikato is doubling down on efforts to explore the business benefits of artificial intelligence (AI), with the launch of a new AI institute.

Te Ipu o te Mahara, which means ‘A Receptacle of Consciousness’, is an institute that will explore real-time analytics in big data and machine learning, and how they can help New Zealand industries, businesses, and communities.

Te Ipu o te Mahara is situated within the university’s Division of Health, Engineering, Computing, and Science.

The university appointed professor Albert Bifet as the institute’s director, who is joined by co-directors professor Bernhard Pfahringer, professor Eibe Frank, and associate professor Te Taka Keegan. Jannat Maqbool also serves as associate director.

Bifet says the aim is to bring training, education and research together with the country’s booming tech industry, which is the third-largest export sector.

“Artificial intelligence and Māori tech have been identified as enabling growth engines for New Zealand. Research into real-time analytics for big data offers huge opportunities to create new businesses and transform existing businesses. 

“It offers a step-change in computer performance, the efficiency and effectiveness of processing the huge datasets behind deep learning, machine learning and AI.”

Te Ipu o te Mahara will also work with schools and industry to provide programmes that leverage AI.

“Alongside the work of experts and researchers a big focus of the Institute will be getting young people excited about STEM subjects and AI, so New Zealand can benefit from a local talent pool with diverse perspectives in leveraging this technology into the future,” says  Jannat Maqbool.

Bifet adds, “Our focus is on building collaborative relationships between the Institute, the wider AI research community and the business community, both in New Zealand and internationally, and then using that research to support entrepreneurship and the commercialisation of AI technology.”

Earlier in April, the university announced the adoption and installation of an NVIDIA supercomputer, the DGX A100, which would support AI research. https://bizedge.co.nz/story/university-of-waikato-installs-nvidia-supercomputer-to-advance-ai-research

“This computer will allow our researchers to process that data in a matter of days. It will enable them to gain insights and progress their research at an unprecedented scale,” says Bifet.

The supercomputer fits into a quarter rack in the university’s main server room. It comprises eight GPUs with 40 GB of memory each, making up 320 GB of total memory.

NVIDIA’s A/NZ enterprise country manager Sudarshan Ramachandran says, “AI is a powerful tool that enables researchers to achieve scientific breakthroughs and discoveries on areas such as climate change and biodiversity, which are critically important to New Zealand and the world.”

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