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On the 22nd of March we presented our latest work on CrowdTruth at the ICT.OPEN 2016 conference. We are happy to announce that our poster received the best poster award in the Human and the Machine track. Furthermore, Anca Dumitrache gave a presentation and pitched our poster which resulted in the 2nd prize for best poster of the conference. It is a good signal that from the almost 200 posters the importance of the CrowdTruth initiative was recognized.

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Today I visited the Guide to the network society conference at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. I attended a session on the digitization of cities, in which it became clear to me that cities are going to a major change. Due to digital communication and e-commerce, the need for a main city center with shops and facilities like banks has decreased drastically. Because of this, the way we look at urban development is changing.

An interesting talk was given by Eduardo Diaz on the work of GeoCraft. In this research minecraft is used as a tool for children to gather ideas on how do develop their new neighborhood. This can help the municipalities and government agencies better develop urban areas. I see this as a sort of gamified crowdsourcing, with the interesting aspect that rather than developing their own platform they used a game that many children already play. Using an existing platform can be a valuable approach for our crowdsourcing research. Though, limitations can arise with the functionality and design of such platform. Nevertheless, there are many games and forums where enthusiasts share their knowledge to form a sort collective intelligence. I believe this can be a valuable source of information for government agencies, which will become more important in the future.

The second session was about the success and doom scenarios of intelligent computers. Guszti Eiben, Zoltán Szlávik and Noel Sharkey each presented both their hypothetical success story and the worst case outcome of the recent developments in artificial intelligence and robotics. Guszti presented his view on the possibility of killer robots and the ethical responsibilities we have as researchers. From his work on evolutionary computing, he learned it is essential that in the future we allow robots to reproduce only in a centralized system. This allows the evolution of robotics to be stopped by disabling the central replication, in the case it were ever to become hostile to humanity. Zoltan made an interesting statement that it is not intelligent robots that threaten the future of humanity, but it is humans that will try to abuse power with these robots. Nevertheless his experience is that robots are already have a positive contribution to society, for instance in education and helping the elderly.

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On Friday 22 January Gerard Smit (CTO for IBM Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg) and Prof. Hubertus Irth (Vice Dean and Research Director of the Vrije Universiteit Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences and Faculty of Sciences) officially launched the collaboration between the IBM Collaborative Innovation Center (CIC) and the VU Faculty of Sciences. In the event students of the Watson Innovation course pitched their projects to a mixed crowd of students, scientists, engineers and business clients.

In the Watson Innovation course, students used Watson to answer questions about Amsterdam, for which Amsterdam Marketing provided the data and use case. The app LocalBuddy was selected as winner, and the students received a prize for their achievements by Amsterdam Marketing.

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Today the students of the first Watson Innovation course by the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and IBM Netherlands presented their group work at the VU Intertain Lab. Representatives from Amsterdam Marketing and IBM Netherlands were present to evaluate the ideas, applications and business plans of the groups. The groups have been working on their Watson powered apps since last November, using the Watson Engagement Advisor and IBM Bluemix. The most interesting project groups will be selected to present their work again next Friday at IBM.

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On Thursday 9th of October was the Netherlands eScience symposium in the Amsterdam Arena. This yearly event attracts scientists and researchers from many different disciplines. In the digital humanities track, Oana Inel of the CrowdTruth team gave a talk on the Dive+ project. This is a digital cultural heritage project in which innovative access to online collections is provided, with the purpose of supporting digital humanities scholars and online exploration for the general public. This project is supported by the Netherlands eScience center, and uses CrowdTruth for the crowdsourcing of events in historical data. The talk titled “Towards New Cultural Commons with DIVE+” can be seen below.

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Our research group received several awards at the IBM Extreme Blue Expo 2015. In this event, an array of speakers from IBM, Academia and the startup community presented their latest findings. The Shared University Research Award was granted to the Web & Media group of the VU University Amsterdam. This award is a global initiative by IBM to stimulate science and the collaboration between IBM and scientists. Furthermore, Lora Aroyo received a faculty award for her work on our project CrowdTruth, and Anca Dumitrache reveived a PhD Fellowship award for her work on medical relation extraction.

As part of the shared university research award we received access to the Watson Engagement Advisor Research platform, which will be used for collaborative research on methods for the training and evaluation of IBM Watson. In the upcoming months we will jointly host a Watson innovation course for students and Watson masterclasses for professionals. More info will follow on this at a later stage.

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On Friday 11th of September I pitched the medical relation extraction work of my CrowdTruth colleague Anca Dumitrache at the third Amsterdam Data Science: Coffee and Data event. The purpose of this was to get in touch with researchers that have medical datasets that are for instance incomplete or contain errors. With our research, we want to investigate how we can improve the quality of this data. Several other interesting presentations on data science in the medical domain were given at this event, which was hosted on the top floor of the VU University Amsterdam. Together with Merel van Empel, we also presented our latest work on gamification of crowdsourcing for advancing biology using BioCrowd. Feel fee to try out the game and provide us with feedback.