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Fireside chat with Anthony Bourached, Co-Founder&CEO of Oxia Palus

Who is Anthony Bourached?

This is my bio: Anthony is a Machine Learning and Theoretical Neuroscience PhD candidate at University College London, Anthony holds an MSc in machine learning from University College London, an MSc in high performance computing from the University of Edinburgh, and a BA in theoretical physics from Trinity College Dublin.
Anthony believes that art is at the top of a complexity-hierarchy of mechanisms responsible for the documentation of complex human societal, cultural, and historical information for which science forms the foundation. Anthony sees his study of art as a bottom-up approach of this hierarchy. Propelled by the current technological revolution, we can come to understand art, and our study of it in an entirely new way.

What’s the story behind Oxia Palus?

Co-founders, Anthony and George, were both studying at UCL and used a lot of machine learning in our work. We both had a passion for how recent developments in machine vision could be used for creative purposes. Together we submitted a proof of concept paper, entitled Raiders of the Lost Arton using style transfer to resurrect lost artworkto the NeurIPS workshop on AI for the creative arts. The article got picked up by MIT tech review and immediately got worldwide press coverage, with articles coming out in dozens of languages. The uptake showed us that not only was the idea valid, but it was a novel concept that spun a very positive message for AI: that it can help us recover lost components of our culture—perhaps the most human message that AI has brought us. A leader in the nascent field of computer vision and the analysis of art, prof David Stork, who teaches the subject and Stanford University—and is writing the first textbook on the subject to be published this year—contacted us and we have since worked together with to position our work in the right part of art analytics literature. Our vision has developed organically since the inception of the idea. We envision a future where we can comprehensively leverage not just visual, but textual, and contextual information to recover information from our past that will give us truly novel insights into the most complex facet of human information storage: art. 

What was the most difficult part of your experience in the early beginnings?

All along our process so far, George and I have been students. We are both due to be completing our respective PhDs at UCL in the next year. The chief challenges have been finding time to work comprehensively on progressing the research, especially given that the field is so novel. As well as the cost of prototyping and trying out new ideas with money out-of-pocket. Nonetheless, we have now created a few end-to-end ressurrections using state-of-the-art 3D printing and have a worldwide network of collaborators.

What are you most proud of regarding your business? What is your vision for the future of Oxia Palus?

I truly believe in our mission. I believe that it sends a positive message about the future of AI: that it will act as a tool to help us understand our own humanity better, and increase the spectrum of our creativity. Moreover, from a very personal perspective, I believe that the fundamental, evolutionary role of art—and people’s response to it—in our society is the documentation of complex, high-dimensional cultural, and historical information. Information that, for lack of a formal method of documentation (like science), needs to use our emotions, our interactions, and our morality to keep alive. Therefore, I believe that the study of art and culture with AI (a growingly complex analytics tool) is the ultimate scientific goal, also.

What’s your advice for the businesses that are trying to adapt to this economic climate?

Be adaptable! One thing that I have learned in abundance from my work in Oxia Palus, is that things never go how you hope, expect, or think they should. Just as a painter needs to spend most of their time looking at a subject, an entrepreneur needs to do them same. They need to constantly update their beliefs about how things work based on their observations. This needs to be combined with being tough, as you will be buffeted by the storm while you do try to do something new. Most importantly, to be creative IS to feel uncomfortable with the tension between what you know you should do, and what you think is right. 

Please name a few technologies which have the greatest impact on your business.

Many components of AI: mostly machine vision. In particular deep learning models such as Convolutional Neural Networks, and generative models, such as Generative Adversarial Networks. 

What books do you have on your nightstand?

Cafe Berlin—I’m trying to learn German.

Because of the current economic climate our publication has started a series of discussions with professional individuals meant to engage our readers with relevant companies and their representatives in order to discuss their involvement, what challenges they have had in the past and what they are looking forward to in the future. This sequence aims to present a series of experiences, recent developments, changes and downsides in terms of their business areas, as well as their goals, values, career history, the high-impact success outcomes and achievements.

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