The desire for creative work has led her from the bilingual high school to studying cybernetics. Today, she is recognized as an expert in social robotics – developing an inventive technology that will enable 3D hologram connection to people based on augmented reality, giving lectures around the world, and previously working for companies like Google. If you want to ask Mária Virčíková something about her life and work in person, you have a great opportunity during the Art & Tech Days this November in Košice. Get some ideas in the following article:
Co-founder of Matsuko says she has devoted herself to many things, enjoyed drawing, but she studied languages at the Spanish bilingual grammar school. It was only in her last year that she decided where her next steps would go: “In the period before college, I had no idea what would follow. I was accepted for architecture and also Spanish. However, I was not sure that was something I really wanted to do in my life. I applied for cybernetics only after the summer, two weeks before starting school. I knew that informatics was something creative and would always support me, as it is always going to be an essential profession. Although I knew almost nothing about cybernetics, these reasons were sufficient for me to go towards computer science. A few years later, I finished my doctorate in Artificial Intelligence and remained at the Technical University of Košice as a researcher in the field of cybernetics and AI,” explains Mária.
Humane vs. mass production robots
During her studies, Mária took part in an excursion in a factory where robots were used for mass manufacture. She recalls how horrified she felt after seeing this type of machinery, for which the robots were designed and could not imagine herself as a developer of this type: “Only there I understood the final product I would have to code. I was looking for something in the sphere of Artificial Intelligence that would make me feel more useful and had a deeper effect on society. Later in America, I met a professor who was interested in social robotics and it was very exhilarating to see her work. What is fascinating about it is, in particular, the fact that the cooperation of several sectors such as psychology, sociology and others is necessary for the final product. It’s great when you can work with different people and learn to communicate with each other. Although at the beginning we speak different languages, in the end, we realize that a product would not be possible without cooperation. For example, technologists like me couldn’t design a robot with questions focused on psychological research because we don’t know how to formulate them properly.”
Virtual teleport and communication inventions
The year 2014 marked a turning point in Mária’s career – she met her future working partner Matúš Kirchmayer – she called him to evaluate her new shopping centre system. This project designed screens in the displays which changed clothes according to the visitor passing by. Both, Mária and Matúš, soon realized that they could create something big together – he as a 3D expert and she as an Artificial Intelligence developer: “I like to meet people who are peculiar in some way and have big plans. Matúš spent time working abroad, he is open-minded, thinks globally without prejudice or stereotypes – that’s what we are similar in. At a lecture in San Francisco, we met the creator behind the app Zoom, which is used daily in our entire team in Matsuko. In our opinion, current technology is able to transform communication tools from 2D as Zoom or Skype into 3D such as Star Wars or Kingsmen.” Mária claims that when researching important inventions throughout history, she and Matúš clearly realized the prevailing motive of communication. They think that people have a natural need to meet and communicate – that’s why they started to focus on sci-fi technology ‘Skype of the future’ which will enable communicating via 3D hologram in VR.
“We are developing a process of 3D telepresence through which we will be able to visualize the whole person in front of us even if he/she is on the other side of the world. All with Artificial Intelligence. We do not need an infinite number of cameras that would take caption of every side us as the current competition offers. All we need is a device with a camera that learns how we look through Artificial Intelligence. It’s actually a virtual teleport. Our company didn’t invent 3D telepresence, but we’ve come up with a way how every company can use it in their office.”
Language & communication topic at Art & Tech Days 2019
During the interview with Mária Virčíková, the subject of the annual Art & Tech Days festival in November was also presented. Last year’s headline speaker for the topic – Defining the revolution of today – she spoke about the experience of her Matsuko company with Artificial Intelligence. According to Mária, enthusiasts like herself go to the festival – these are not afraid to emerge from their bubble and explore other sectors which they could connect with: “I’m won’t lie, I like Art & Tech Days festival very much. Every year I look forward to the speakers who come to Košice, whether they are from the field I am familiar with or not. Unlike other conferences, the Art & Tech Conference still has one comprehensive topic. I especially like that the main line-up is complemented by accompanying events such as installations, concerts but mainly workshops where everyone can try to create new things. For example, I want to take part in Physicality in Virtual Spaces this year with Mária Júdová. Matúš’ former colleagues from Montreal will also come to the Game Days produced by the Slovak Association of Game Developers, which are regularly held during the 6-day festival. I’ve always worked on the border of two worlds – Art & Tech Days creates a place for people like me to gain inspiration and meet new people from different areas.”
The future of technology is to create for people
According to Maria, the difference between successful and unsuccessful entrepreneurs is the perseverance and overcoming obstacles that come along the way. When asked about the (mis)use of technologies in the future, she answers sincerely – we cannot influence how the inventions will be used later, but their creators are able to decide who they offer them to: “We want to change how companies and people communicate with each other and how effectively they cooperate – simply, to be closer to others. It is up to people how they’ll use technology in the future. Doing something for people is perhaps the best job that exists – it is the fact that motivates me the most. I’m happy to do what I enjoy.”
At Art & Tech Days 2019 on Language and Communication – Beyond Words, you can meet Mary Virčíková in person and ask her not only about humane robots. Book your event 11/21/2019 in Košice, Kasárne/Kulturpark here.