Dubai is not just a city; it’s a technological frontier, shaping the future of innovation and artificial intelligence. Joined by Ghaith Abdul Rahman from the Dubai Future Foundation and Amin Alzarouni and Eman Aleghfeli of B E D U, we delve into the symbiotic relationship between the Dubai government and the private sector, propelling forward strides in the realm of artificial intelligence. From quantum experiments to blockchain innovations, DFF serves as the catalyst, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. Meanwhile, we dive into how B E D U explores the use of generative AI to turn futuristic ideas into viable businesses. Join us on this journey, where the Edge of AI meets the vibrant landscape of Dubai, offering an exclusive peek into the futuristic realms of AI that are shaping the city’s destiny.
- DFF as a bridge between government and the private sector to drive innovation in government services.
- B E D U’s venture turn futuristic ideas into viable businesses.
- B E D U’s experiment in the NFT space, exploring ways to use NFTs beyond simple ownership.
- The importance of collaboration between the government and private sector in driving innovation.
- How Dubai’s infrastructure and ecosystem support emerging technologies.
- How B E D U explores the use of generative AI in handling structured and unstructured data for businesses.
- Dubai’s vision to become a hub for emerging technologies, offering an ecosystem that supports startups with regulations, talent attraction, and infrastructure.
- VoiceArt as a tool for artists and creators to collaborate with AI.
- Ghaith Abdul Rahman: “DFF sits somewhere between government and private sector, engaging government on everything from future foresight to possible training and playing with emerging technologies.”
- Amin Alzarouni: “Dubai is going to be a hub for many of the emerging techs and many of the future technologies that we see coming.”
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Bridging Realities: Venturing Tomorrow’s Concepts On The Edge Of Dubai
While we were on break between seasons, we had a chance to travel to Dubai for the general assembly for artificial intelligence, and we encountered some very special pioneers in the world of AI. In this episode, we explore the unique relationship between the Dubai government and the private sector that has catalyzed innovation in the AI sector. We also learned why one UAE startup created a metaverse journey that simulates the colonization of Mars in 2117. Lastly, check out our demonstration of an exciting new text-to-image AI technology application. Stay tuned for the details and let’s venture into the UAE’s most futuristic ideas on this special episode of the show.
It’s an action-packed few weeks and this is day one. I’m here at the Dubai Assembly for generative AI. It’s exciting to be here. I’m here with Ghaith Rahman who’s one of the senior managers for DFF, and we are going to learn more about what you guys are up to. Thanks for having us.
Thanks for having me as well.
It’s our pleasure. There’s a lot going on out here. You guys have been busy building. This is your second year of doing this event. Before we get into that, let’s start with a little bit more. What is DFF all about?
DFF is an interesting organization. We have a very cool mandate. We sit somewhere between government and private sector in the sense that we are a government entity, but we are allowed to experiment with new business models and emerging tech, and engage government primarily on everything from future foresight over the next several years, capacity building and training, and also applying everything that we have learned from the previous two into an accelerator model or an application model in acceleration. It could be sandboxing or piloting.
All of this is around emerging technology and how it impacts government, but also any of the new business models that are emerging that are impacting the way government works. If you don’t know Dubai well and the UAE, the government is both the business or the service provider and also the regulator. There’s double pressure on them to innovate. What we do is help them understand the next several years of their sector and where it is going by doing a bit of forecasting and scenario building, but also helping them experiment with everything from autonomous cars to new technology models that are based on blockchain, and artificial intelligence. We try to push the edge of government when it comes to all these things.The UAE government is both the service provider and the regulator, so there's double pressure on them to innovate. Click To Tweet
It reminds me of my world in a past life. I worked in the federal government helping consult on open government initiatives and innovation with some agencies that don’t naturally progress that rapidly. You are accelerating government in some unique ways. How do you think Dubai is different in that sense of that relationship between government and the private sectors particularly around emerging technology? I’m curious.
The difference is that we push a lot of advancements or we push a lot of the agenda when it comes to looking at what else is new out there in terms of tech and business models. We drive that agenda and we work with the private sector to deliver. The government has historically been the main spender or driving force behind the economy, but it’s always been hand in hand with the private sector because we don’t always have all the answers all the time.
There’s the model of co-creation. There’s a model of piloting, testing, and seeing what benefits that has for the government. Here, the government is primed for one bottom line, which is the public good. In a lot of the work that we do, the main output is, “Can this become a new public or government service that the public can use that can make their life easier, improve on current government and services, and make the entire place as a city a better place to live?”
How does the general assembly that we are here at fit into that set of objectives?
What we do in the assembly is we take what we do at DFF over the course of 1 year and we do it over 2 days. We found a massive need to educate and expose leaders in the government and private sector to the impact of emerging tech. Every year, we hear of a new trend or a new blockbuster of emerging tech. The last few years were metaverse and Web3. We dedicated a two-day event around that. 2023 is generative AI.
In 2024, we don’t know, but we already have a few ideas. We try to take that hot topic from a hyped full of media steroids topic and to digging down into what it means. We have five verticals across the assembly. We have, for example, 2023’s theme is generative AI. We do a Generative AI 101 where we demystify the tech. We talk about why is generative AI a hot topic. It’s a branch of artificial intelligence. It’s been here for a while, but why is generative AI the hot topic now and in decades?
Also, what is the difference between the consumer version of using ChatGPT or Bard versus when you apply it on an enterprise level? These are the questions that are probably in their hindsight. We look at economic use cases of what other sectors are doing, and some examples of how they have implemented large lifelong or LLMs within their organizations. How are they using their data across different sectors?
We look at the role of generative AI with other emerging tech and how it’s improving and increasing their development, and then we look at the role of big tech and small tech. These are the themes that we tackle to give decision-makers who attend the assembly because it’s an invite-only event. Only for them. It is a much deeper look into that technology rather than giving them a flat outlook of it that probably doesn’t give them the full picture.
In your role, did you have a lot to do with the curation process?
The curation of the content all sits with us. We lead it.
I’m going to ask you a difficult question. It’s like picking your favorite child, but as someone intimately familiar with the curation of this event, what are some of the highlights for you personally that you are excited about?
One of the things that we always go through before we plan the assembly is we go on a massive learning curve around the technology itself. In 2022, we did it around the metaverse. We had to dig deep into understanding who’s doing what in the metaverse space and immersive experiences. We have to go through the fluff and come up with something solid.
The difference here is that it’s the same process, but there’s a lot that’s being built in generative AI because it’s happening now. With metaverse, we are still way too early for it. The learning curve is super interesting and that’s the best part, but through that, you get to understand what big tech players are planning on doing and what their ethos is when it comes to generative AI and LLMs versus what some of the smaller companies are trying to do and what their ethos is.
With the dichotomy, sometimes they have a similar common denominator, but they are clearly out to do very different things. One of the sessions that I was interested in was the Microsoft session because we had the VP of Azure globally talk about what their plans for AI are and how they are transforming Microsoft into an AI company dedicated to the space.
They are very focused on AI.
A hundred percent, but also we have some of the smaller ones like Hugging Face and the others that are looking at building an ecosystem around LLMs where multiple people with different data sets and technologies can build on top of that. They are taking the GitHub approach of generative AI versus the other big tech. It’s interesting to see how both these roles either clash or play harmoniously together. For me, that’s the most interesting part.
We love this type of stuff and I’m sure it will be a chance to collaborate more in the future. For those who don’t know where to learn more about you, where can they find DFF and Web3?
The best place is our website because it has all of our projects both previous and current.
What’s the web website handle?
DubaiFutureFoundation.com. You will find it all there. A lot of upcoming projects, we push them a lot on our socials because we have a community of startups that we have been curating for the past few years that we have been working with and bringing them here to Dubai to work with the government. We have a massive pool of them. Whenever we have an interesting project around emerging tech that our government entity wants to test and play around with, we reach out to that community, reach out to the scouts, and publish it on social media so it’s always there and everybody can have access to it. People from the states can apply from South America. We have had a lot of companies from South America, Europe, and Asia. That’s how we do it.
That’s where folks can go to learn more. I appreciate you spending a little time with us. I know you have a lot going on. Let’s stay in touch.
I was greatly appreciative to be introduced to Amin Al Zarouni. He is the CEO of Bedu. Thanks for joining us on the show.
It’s a pleasure, Josh, for sure. It’s an interesting topic to be a part of.
We are at this edge of innovation. We talk a lot about Web3 and its intersection with AI. I have learned that there are folks across the world who are thinking about this intersection as well. Before we get into the details there, maybe you can give us a little background on yourself and Bedu.
I come from a heavy tech background. All my career has been in the tech industry, specifically in a private and multinational organization. I have been part of product development service offerings for all my career. For the last several years, I started my ventures in collaboration with governments or in collaboration with colleagues and cofounders.
Our latest venture is in what we started Bedu, which is an Arabic word for Bedouins the Nomad. Allow me to elaborate on the name because Bedouins love to discover and in any part of the world, not just in the Middle East, but they love to discover the land and they are famous for prospering the land that they are in. This is where we would like to inject that value within Bedu. We would like to discover in this emerging tech world.
This is why in the last few years, Bedu focused a lot on the Web3 space a lot in the digital assets blockchain use cases. We can elaborate further during this show. Now we are setting up Bedu to become more of a venture studio or startup studio that with the same model collaboration with tech companies and governments converts ideas into businesses and products and how can we eventually spin off these products to become successful businesses and startups that contribute to the ecosystem that we have.
There’s been a lot of innovation in the Web3 space over the last few years. It feels like it’s been decades. A lot of different possibilities for what can be co-created, but you guys settled on two particular projects that have come to life. I’m curious why you chose those projects and how that journey has been for you, and then we will talk a little bit more about AI. The first one you said is 2117.io. What’s that all about?
It’s our flagship project. It’s a metaverse journey that we started several years ago. I need to tell you the vision behind it. There is a vision here in the country owned by the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, and there is a team dedicated to making this a reality, which is building the first habitation and a colony on the red planet Mars in the year 2117.
With that vision, we collaborated with them. We partnered with the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre to create that simulation into the metaverse and the virtual world. This is what we have launched in last year 2022. We were partners here in the assembly last year and we showcased our metaverse project 2117. It’s already live. There are already users on that platform. We are continuously building and developing it, but the whole story comes behind that vision. How can we build a virtual reality space that can create a vision that most of us will not live to witness and bring back to reality?
It makes you want to try. There’s a longevity medicine out there that wasn’t there even several years ago. Maybe there’s a chance we can be there on Mars together.
The beauty is we can envision how real estate, education, and social interaction will be at that time. This is the whole story behind it. We have been extremely busy with this project. The market changed and the hype changed and this is why we are trying to influence more AI into it.
There are some exciting aspects of the opportunity to take this virtual journey to Mars. Was there anything in terms of what you learned about what it would mean to colonize Mars that surprised you in terms of what that experience would be for you and future generations? We are up there on Mars, you developed this metaverse. What are people going to see if they go to this metaverse that you learned about in the process of building it?
We took it as a real journey. We took it as people were preparing for the takeoff from Earth. We are in the year 2117, and now people are going through the journey to prepare for that travel. We build these assets. We build the assets in partnership with them. We designed the spaceships, space pods, homes, and districts and people are now part of that journey traveling to Mars, and there is a journey that’s going to happen there. There’s a period that they are going to spend interacting in the spaceships, attending events there, socializing, and networking.
Does your own home on Mars look different than yours here in Dubai?
For sure. I wouldn’t say it has to be futuristic because we don’t know how design going to change by that time, but we have our touch. If people who are going to visit the website, they are going to have a glimpse of what it looks like.
It’s fun to think about. You also had another project, UAE NFT. Could you tell us a little bit about that one?
That’s more our experiments on the blockchain side. In our experiments on the digital asset side, we have launched several projects that have to do with art, loyalty, and membership programs where we see how we can use smart contracts and blockchain to provide different tools for the market. For example, our latest project was related to our metaverse, but it was more what the process and the tools that we can bring in where people can create their own NFT by customizing the art piece that they are interested in.
It’s not that they are just going and buying an NFT, they are contributing to the creation of the NFT by the selections of different elements that they are going through in the gamified process that we have created. We wanted to experiment in that space under the brand new NFT, under the product UAE NFT on multiple fronts, and eventually, these can be used in different real-case businesses. I will give you an example. In real-life business, we have been talking about fractionalizing real estate for a while. It has been a topic for a while.
There are separate companies as an SPV that came out where they managed to fractionize real estate, but tokenized, few of them maybe have attempted. Regulations come into play. There are so many complications there. What we have been doing, building the tools that are enabling that project to happen. When we go and pitch it to such entities, we have proven records of projects that use these different processes and tools that can be enabled and can be put together to create that product. UAE NFT is our experiment in the NFT space. How do we use NFTs? What could they mean for us in the real world and in real-world assets, to be very specific?
Here at the assembly, you have an exhibition. What brings you here and how are you looking at the power of generative AI in terms of not only these other projects that you have done but also other potential projects moving forward?
As I said, maybe I hint that the market started to change and shape and as a startup agile company, we had to also adopt and navigate through the emerging tech that’s happening around us. We had an idea of bringing generative AI into the virtual reality building or metaverse building where people through interaction with generative AI can build their spaces.
Then we said, “Why can’t we start even scaling that up and start using generative AI in businesses?” How can we structure the unstructured data? This is what we are showcasing here in the event. We are partnering with Dubai Future Foundation in showcasing two different elements, different sub-products, let’s call them at the moment, MVPs that we are bringing in. One of them has to do with the digital assets side, where through voice commands and voice prompts, a digital asset gets created automatically.
Eventually, we can take that to a 3D asset and then a complete asset that exists in the metaverse. The other use case has to do more on the business front. As I said, taking huge amounts of data, be it structured or unstructured, be it media, video, pictures, attachments, or databases that I’m connecting to, and then with a similar look of ChatGPT style, I have a private chat interaction with my enterprise data that I am also open for public. Now I can forecast how I can improve a specific KPI by X percentage because now I have access to my data and I have access as well to external reports that I can drag and drop into that chat. This is what we are showcasing in this participation in the assembly.
That’s a very powerful use case for all enterprises because search engines are only so effective at getting people to exactly what they need and how. The amount of data that companies have has proliferated immensely in the last few decades. Search isn’t enough. You could still spend a lot of time looking for something and not find exactly what you need. Whereas with AI, whatever you need is at your fingertips.Search engines are only so effective at getting people to exactly what they need whereas with AI, whatever you need is that your fingertips. Click To Tweet
It’s not only search. Search is a big added value, but then you include planning and options of decision making and project management. Keep in mind that these showcases that we are doing also fit in the overall arc of our mission at Bedu, where we venture into tomorrow’s ideas where we try to prove that these ideas have a market fit for them. If there is and they are validated then they are spun off as separate business ideas and products that can be monetized in other markets.
How can folks who are reading to collaborate with you and learn more about what you do?
There’s a lot on our website. First of all, Bedu.ai, we are very active on all social channels. Myself, the team on Twitter. We have our own Discord as well for the community members who own the digital assets that we have. If they are here in Dubai, we are here.
Why not come to Dubai? That’s the easiest way to collaborate.
Many of our stakeholders have said it. I would repeat what they said. “We aim to make Dubai and Dubai going to be a hub for many of the emerging techs and many of the future technologies that we see coming in the region.” It’s not just because of the vision, it’s how this vision is being translated from the infrastructure point of view and not only tech infrastructure. The infrastructure from the city, entertainment, facilities, hospitality, and all of that. Make sure that when a startup wants to shine and boom, there is the right ecosystem that supports this. Regulations as well. Talents, a lot of attractions of talents that happen in the region. Come to Dubai and let’s have a chat. Reach out to us on social channels. We are more than happy to have an interaction.
Thank you for your time. I learned a lot. I’m going to be following you all. You are at the edge of innovation for sure. I’m excited about what you are doing in this space.
Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure.
I am here at the Dubai Assembly for generative AI and getting to know the team at Bedu. They are showcasing some cool technology here. I’m at their expo and it’s all about text-to-image technology. Tell us a little bit more about what you are up to here. I should say this is Eman, who’s the Creative Lead at Bedu. Nice to meet you.
Nice to meet you too. At Bedu, we are a venture studio and this is one of our ventures. We are going into voice art. Voice art is a generative AI that takes speech prompts and creates digital assets and art. You go and describe your scene and it generates whatever you are saying. What we are doing, these are components for what we are creating as part of our ventures also include virtual spaces. This is an asset that can be fed into this virtual space, for example, the metaverse, and what we see this becoming, is also creating 3D assets and not just 2D what we are doing right now.
I can see how this opens up the possibility so many other people can be creative but maybe don’t have a refined brushstroke. They have an idea in their head and now they don’t have to worry about how hard it is to express that in images because now this tool can help them with that.
It’s funny because even artists that I am surrounded by could also utilize this tool as a reference. Sometimes you have so many ideas. They don’t know how to put them into paper, digital, or whatever form that you want to create it with. Sometimes you speak to this AI, let it do its work, give you this reference, and then you go from there. It’s a good way to have this human touch still where you are coming up with ideas, but the AI is helping you put it together and give you an idea of what it could be.
Is this tool out in the wild? Can anyone use it yet or is it still closed beta?
We are still in beta and this is a prototype to show what’s possible and what’s going to be next. It’s 3D assets, different things that can be fed into a bigger world and a bigger space.
Thanks for taking some time to tell us what you are up to.