Presenting at the ACAI 2020 Workshop

How to hold an AI conference in the COVID-19 era

UPDATE 07/25/2020: The event went fantastically. You can see our presentations here and here in the livestream recording. We’ve also written up posts to accompany the presentations here and here

Big news everyone! My friend Vinay Prabhu, Ph.D. and I are going to be presenting new style transfer techniques at the ACAI 2020 Workshop.

No, not the 2020 3rd International Conference on Algorithms, Computing and Artificial Intelligence workshop. We’re going to be presenting at the 2020 1st Animal Crossing Artificial Intelligence Workshop. This is a brand new AI conference being organized by Joshua D. Eisenberg, Ph.D. (along with between-talk art showings organized by Aimee Rubensteen), built for the era of COVID-quarantines and social distancing.

Holding this conference over Animal Crossing New Horizons makes sense for thee reasons:

  1. Using an online game is a good alternative to many of the sub-par virtual conference tools out there. I’ve used plenty of virtual conference tools. Whova, ON24, Hopin, Bevy, Run the World. My opinion after this sampling is that most of the existing virtual conference apps, well, suck. And as far as using existing video games for conference meetups goes, ACNH already has a mechanic that behaves something like conference rooms, not to mention the ability to customize your character. Plus, buying (and cleaning) a used Nintendo Switch Lite plus buying ACNH was still vastly cheaper than air travel + ticket costs for the overwhelming majority of AI/ML conferences I’ve been to (looking at you ICML & NeurIPS).
  2. Animal Crossing New Horizons already has a large user base, that includes many machine learning engineers. Clearly Joshua Eisenberg knew this when he was able to get 300 people to sign up for the conference. The conference speaker application also had an only 14% speaker acceptance rate. Animal Crossing seems to be one of those games that a lot more people in ML play than they let on. Heck, one of Kaggle’s recent videos on their Snapshots feature recently featured an Animal Crossing Dataset.
  3. An informal setting like a videogame is possibly among the best substitutes for in-person conference networking. The most valuable parts of conferences are the interactions with other conference goers. Aside from not being a COVID tinderbox like most concert venues, the relaxed setting, the large virtual spaces, and the lack of hundreds of people trying to talk at once in the same room is ideal. As the organizers also demonstrated, simple off-the-shelf video-streaming software can combine views of the videogame interactions with views from Zoom or Google Hangouts videos.

The conference talks themselves were curated from a call for submissions from the fields of Computational models of narrative, Automatic speech recognition, Image generation, Natural language understanding, Conversational AI, Computer vision, Computational creativity, Music information retrieval, Automatic musical understanding, and Video game AI. Vinay and I are going to be giving out talks during the Computer Vision section, and I’ll be hosting a virtual coffee break with the theme of getting around technical debt in machine learning. The full schedule can be found here.

Oh, and I forgot to mention one thing: The entire workshop + video art screening can be viewed on YouTube for free here.

Looking forward to seeing you all in the Coffee breaks and Liestream chats!

Cited as:

    title = "ACAI 2020 Workshop participation announcement",
    author = "McAteer, Matthew",
    journal = "",
    year = "2020",
    url = ""

If you notice mistakes and errors in this post, don’t hesitate to contact me at [contact at matthewmcateer dot me] and I will be very happy to correct them right away! Alternatily, you can follow me on Twitter and reach out to me there.

See you in the next post 😄

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