The Belgium Netherlands Artificial Intelligence conference (BNAIC) is an annually organized conference bringing together AI researchers from all over the Benelux. This year it was supposed to be held for the first time in Leiden. Due to the continuing lock-down, it was organized online. Continuing a trend that was started two years ago, BNAIC was organized in conjunction with BeneLearn, the Benelux conference on Machine Learning.

On top of having formal Springer CCIS proceedings, BNAIC and BeneLearn profile themselves as networking conferences, with strong underlying communities. As such, BNAIC/BeneLearn is a good opportunity for young researchers to get in touch with the Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning community from the Benelux. Like previous years, the majority of papers came from the Netherlands and Belgium, however there were also submissions coming from Luxembourg, Germany, UK, Sweden, Poland, Italy and Cuba, ensuring diversity of countries.

The conference featured three keynote speakers:

  • Dr. Joost Batenburg from Leiden University talked about tomography and real-time image processing.
  • Tom Schaul from Google DeepMind talked about AlphaStar, a Reinforcement Learning based agent that bested the game Starcraft.
  • Dr. Gabriele Gramelsberger from Aachen University talked about the impact that Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning have on the Natural Sciences.

On top of the three keynote speakers, there were also plenary talks from Dr. Nico Roos (Maastricht University), Dr. Yingqian Zhang (TU Eindhoven) and Prof. Dr. Luc de Raedt (KU Leuven). These were organized by the Faculty focusing on the Facts of Artificial Intelligence (commonly called FACt talks), which aim to attract high-profile researchers to the conference and intend to be provocative. Both of these goals were achieved, thanks to the speakers.

During four time slots consisting of four parallel sessions, the contributions of the 62 accepted papers were discussed. All authors have created a 10 minute video, that were watched and discussed during these slots. The videos will also be available after the conference. Contributions were grouped by topic. Some popular topics were reinforcement learning, agents and classification.

At the end of the BNAIC, the Business and Society afternoon was organized. It started with a panel discussion from various stakeholders on the AI Rat Race, and continued with plenary talks from Guy de Pauw (Textgain) and David Graus (Randstad Groep Nederland) on a wide range of topics, including how to detect and block hate speech from the internet and how to make algorithms recommend more diverse content.

During the closing ceremony, various awards were handed out:

  • The best paper award, sponsored by SNN, was awarded to Andrei C. Apostol, Maarten C. Stol and Patrick D. Forré, from University of Amsterdam and BrainCreators B.V., for the paper “FlipOut: Uncovering Redundant Weights via Sign Flipping”.
  • The best thesis award, sponsored by BNVKI, was awarded to Louis Gevers and Neil Yorke-Smith, from Delft University of Technology, for the paper “Cooperation in Harsh Environments: The Effectsof Noise in Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma”.
  • The best demo award, sponsored by SKBS, was awarded to Eric Jutten, Edward Bosma, Kiki Buijs, Romy Blankendaal and Tibor Bosse, from The Simulation Crew, TNO Soesterberg and Radboud University, for the paper “Communication Training in Virtual Reality: A Training Application for the Dutch Railways”.
  • One of the best video awards, sponsored by ZyLab, was awarded to Lesley van Hoek, Rob Saunders and Roy de Kleijn from Leiden University, for the paper “Evolving Virtual Embodied Agents using External Artifact Evaluations”.
  • The other best video award, sponsored by ZyLab, was awarded to Thomas Winters and Pieter Delobelle from KU Leuven, for the paper “Dutch Humor Detection by Generating Negative Examples”.

All together, we think the BNAIC/BeneLearn conference 2020 was a great success, and would like to thank everyone involved in the organization and attending. We are looking forward to BNAIC and BeneLearn in 2021, organized in Luxembourg.