Tech start up wins industry award for Cheltenham Science Festival project

Tiny Giant Chelt Science Festival

Bristol creative start-up Tiny Giant have won a big industry award thanks to a collaboration with the Cheltenham Science Festival.

The team won won Gold in the Best Use Of AI category at the  2019 Data and Marketing Association Awards.

Inspired by the festival’s Head of Programming , Marieke Navin, and her ambition to create the world’s first AI science festival curator, the team combined machine learning, design, film and social media to bring AIDA to life.

AIDA featured at the Festival launch in an interview for BBC Radio Gloucestershire, wrote an introduction for the Science Festival brochure, appeared on film at the festival and also harnessed her neural network powers to create her own successful event entitled ‘Introvert Narwhals’.

Using 10 years of festival talks as a dataset, Tiny Giant used AI to generate hundreds of potential talks. But not any old AI: it trained a recurrent neural network named AIDA (after Ada Lovelace) to work its computational magic. Four of AIDA’s suggestons were selected by Marieke and her colleagues, and placed in a Twitter poll for the world to select a winner. As a result, Introvert Narwhals came out on top and subsequently became a much-discussed event at the festival.

But AIDA needed a personality and a striking look as she would appear next to her foreword in the festival guide, so Tiny Giant decided to bring the countess of computation into the 21st century with a Supreme-style top and a funky modern attitude. Trained on a science-rich dataset, her words flowed beautifully. They also made a movie about AIDA’s creation to inspire and engage the festival crowd

Marieke Navin said: “I couldn’t be more thrilled that Tiny Giant’s work has been recognised in this way. Cheltenham Science Festival is all about bringing science alive for people of all ages and walks of life. Tiny Giant took my crazy idea of an AI Festival Curator and brought her to life in a way that captured people’s imagination. We are planning to bring her back for next year’s Science Festival, too.”

Richard Norton, Tiny Giant co-founder said: “We were thrilled when Dr Navin invited us to get involved back in January. But to win such a huge industry award takes this story to the next level. “We believe AI can be part of any compelling narrative to excite and inspire people. AIDA shows this to be so. She proves that a great idea gets even better when humans and machines work together. This isn’t the future. It’s the now.”

Cheltenham Science Festival brings together people of all ages who are curious about the wonders of the everyday world, the mysteries of the universe and cutting-edge technology. The tented Festival village hosts hundreds of free family-friendly activities, while the UK’s science community gathers to share their latest ideas in thought-provoking and entertaining ways.

‘Be The Change’ is the theme for this year’s Festival. Over 300 scientists, thinkers, writers and young activists will explore major issues facing the world today and seek the common ground between passion and reason.