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“Machine learning is the most powerful thing mankind has ever developed” — Crossing borders at Pioneers

The Pioneers Conference starts its second day: Under the motto “Blurred Frontiers”, 2,500 founders, investors and journalists have come together in the Hofburg Imperial Palace in Vienna.

The second day started with the big-time Austrian investor Hermann Hauser, who gave a keynote speech about the current relationship between man and machine.

Hauser compared the technical data in a human brain with the performance of a modern-day computer. At first, computers take the lead in the game of cards between man and machine: 500 terabytes of memory can be stored in a mass of one kilogram. Humans are only able to store one fifth of that. Nonetheless, the brain is still vastly superior to the computer when it comes to processing power and it “processes” one thousand times faster. Computers also require ten thousand times more energy. In terms of energy efficiency, the brain is ten million times superior to computers.

So far, that all sounds reassuring for humans. However, it doesn’t look so great in terms of hardware: Our eyes can in no way compete with cameras. Human legs are also not as variable or efficient as robot legs.

Comparing human with mechanical performance demonstrates one thing above all else: Humans and machines have become comparable. That is due to progress made in artificial intelligence, particularly in machine learning. It has made machines not only more efficient, but also more human. The revolutionary difference, said Hauser, is that computers no longer function using mathematical ones and zeros, but rather with probabilities and statistics: They learn on their own what is more likely to happen, what will probably work or the best approach by comparison. All in all, his conclusion is:


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Hauser considers intelligent machines to be a new “species” that will radically change our lives in the next five to ten years. Mankind has found a new partner, and we will continue to develop together with that partner. The goal of the partnership still needs to be determined by mankind. Hauser recommends using the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

Holodeck in the Hofburg Palace

Visitors are offered a very different kind of border crossing by Holodeck VR. The Holodeck is constructed in its very own room in the Hofburg. Several users are able to move around the room wearing VR glasses and interact with one another in virtual reality. 21-year-old Fanny works as a volunteer at Pioneers and tested out the Holodeck:

“I thought it was really cool. You’re a bit lost in the beginning, but after you figure it out, it’s great. It really is a totally different sensation.”

We spoke with Holodeck VR co-founder Jonathan Nowak Delgado about his startup’s presence at Pioneers and asked what the Munich startup is hoping to gain:

“Conferences and trade fairs are not actually our main area of business, but we use them to boost recognition. They allow us to give so many consumers their first experience with virtual reality. At the end of the day, all of the conference attendees — startups, investors and journalists — are also end consumers.”

Jonathan Nowak and Barbara Lippe from Holodeck VR.
Jonathan Nowak and Barbara Lippe from Holodeck VR (Photo: Munich Startup)

The problem, mentioned Nowak, is that VR has not become a mass market yet:

“All the hopes that VR would turn into a mass market worth millions like smartphones have not been fulfilled. Our theory is that instead of wanting to own the technology, people would rather just have an amazing experience. So our approach is VR-on-demand.”

Holodeck co-founder Jeff Burton will be speaking in several panels at Pioneers 18. That is what also led to Holodeck VR being invited to Pioneers.


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So far, Holodeck has also participated in Bits & Pretzels and the NOAH Conference. They plan to go to Cebit in Hannover in June. We wanted to know what makes Pioneers special in his mind:

“I have to say that the location is quite impressive. We were also able to show a few investors the Holodeck here.”

The regional proximity to Eastern Europe is also very interesting due to the amount of software developers.

“Otherwise, there is a good mix here.”

Click here to read our article about Day 1 at Pioneers 18.