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The future of VR and AI were on display at the Wired Business Conference

An assistant that comes to life in a mixed reality headset and works with you to build out your schedule. A self-driving car that can calculate the speed and distance needed to safely drive through a yellow light.

Sound futuristic? Well, these things might not be so far off.

These ongoing projects were among an array of game-changing technologies revealed at today’s Wired Business Conference, where luminaries from Facebook, Magic Leap, General Motors, among others discussed how they’re creating the next generation of virtual reality and artificial intelligence, and how advances in both technologies will change the way we live, work, and interact with one another.

Rony Abovitz, CEO of secretive VR startup Magic Leap, may have stolen the show when he announced a partnership between his company and LucasFilm to bring “Star Wars” to VR and your living room, but Abovitz had much more to say about the future of virtual reality and how it will soon serve every facet of our lives.

“Our goal is to get to all-day, everyday computing,” he said. “It’s like a full-course meal. People want to eat ice cream first, but we’ll give them salad and appetizers too — all of the nutrients that make your day.”

By this he means filling your entire day — not just when you seek to escape — with “mixed reality,” the union of virtual and physical worlds where we can interact with virtual objects and even characters. Abovitz imagines not only a digital assistant overlaying a schedule on your actual bedroom, but also being able to host a real-time conversation with a friend or loved one as if she was right in your living room with you.

“We’re dedicated to maintaining sacred spaces and avoiding the AR/VR dystopia that we’re all afraid of,” he said.

Machine-learning and artificial intelligence also took center stage at the conference. From Crisis Text Line’s use of machine learning to identify and prioritize troubling language to General Motor Company’s autonomous vehicles and Facebook’s development of bots that understand common sense, a trio of speakers detailed the ground-breaking efforts to replicate human neural networks in machines.

“The next step is using data to get computer to understand how world learns,” said Yann LeCun, Facebook’s Director of Artificial Intelligence. “This is predictive learning.”

“Once we figure out predictive learning, AI will make another big jump,” he added.

To get there, researchers are focusing their efforts on training computers to think and react like humans do, which isn’t so easy. Computers need reams of data and human correction in order to execute functions that we mindlessly perform, like altering course when a dog is in the road or detecting voice tones. That means we’re very much still in the picture, speakers such as LeCun, GM’s CEO Mary Barra, and Facebook’s Vice President of Messaging Products David Marcus reiterated, and the next stages of AI development will be a human-machine collaboration.

“We don’t need to hand-craft everything,” explained LeCun. “We build architecture, train it with data, and let it adapt.”

“Those techniques are the big hammer and now we can use them on any nail.”

Learn more about Qualcomm and its virtual reality initiatives.

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