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AI dominates annual Paris startup event VivaTech

housands of tech enthusiasts filed into Europe’s self-declared biggest startup event VivaTech in Paris on Wednesday.

Copyright AFP ANTHONY WALLACE
Copyright AFP ANTHONY WALLACE
Joseph Boyle and Daxia Rojas

Thousands of tech enthusiasts filed into Europe’s self-declared biggest startup event VivaTech in Paris on Wednesday, with artificial intelligence stealing the show this year.

Over four days, the event, now in its eighth year, will host more than 150,000 guests, 11,000 startups and 450 speakers, according to the organisers.

The star turns will take to the stage on Thursday — former US climate envoy and secretary of state John Kerry is expected to make a push for a green tech revolution, and billionaire Tesla, SpaceX and X owner Elon Musk will appear via video link to answer audience questions.

“AI will be at the core of everything that you will see,” said VivaTech founder Maurice Levy in his opening address.

On the same stage, France’s minister for digital affairs Marina Ferrari urged the public: “Don’t be afraid” of AI.

“With the acceleration of AI we are living a real revolution, which could be compared to printing or electrification,” she said.

Alongside dire warnings from critics that sentient AI could take over the world, the technology uses vast energy resources.

Firms like OpenAI, which use publicly available information for their programs, are widely accused of copyright and privacy breaches — most recently apologising to actor Scarlett Johansson after appearing to use her voice for their chatbot.

– ‘AI tsunami’ –

As guests squashed into the Paris conference centre, a slew of startups began giving presentations and making pitches for funding.

On “AI alley”, firms from France to South Korea demonstrated how AI can be deployed for anything from controlling devices in the home hand movements, to fighting against disinformation.

Dima Gazda, CEO of US startup Esper Bionics, showed off his firm’s innovative robotic limbs, tailored to an individual’s needs by AI.

“We hope to get potential partners and new teammates and potential investors,” Gazda said of his first trip to VivaTech.

Established players like ChatGPT maker OpenAI, Anthropic and Mistral will take to the main stages to outline their latest innovations.

In the face of this “AI tsunami”, said Ben Wood of CCS Insight, companies should be careful not to overwhelm their potential customers.

“There’s a lot of exciting things about AI, but you need to very clearly articulate what the benefits are for consumers,” he told AFP.

“Because we are rapidly approaching AI fatigue, when people just tune out.”

The event regularly attracts major political figures, with EU heavyweights Thierry Breton and Charles Michel expected to attend.

However, French President Emmanuel Macron, a regular attendee, is unlikely to take part this year.

Macron instead travelled to the French territory of New Caledonia on Wednesday, some 17,000 kilometres from Paris.

The Pacific territory has suffered days of unrest after indigenous Kanaks rejected changes to voting rules that would have boosted the influence of people who had arrived recently.

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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