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Top Tech in Rio for WWW2013 Conference

By Anna Kaiser, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Computer scientists, academics, and other technology professionals flocked to Rio last week for the 19th annual WWW2013 conference at the Windsor Barra Conference Center in Barra da Tijuca. The WWW is an annual conference where academics and professionals in the technology industry present studies and papers about the future of the internet.

Luis Von Ahn, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Keynote speaker Luis Von Ahn delivers his talk about his language instruction website, Duolingo, photo by Anna Kaiser.

This year, big technology industry names including Luis Von Ahn, Tim Berners-Lee, Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, and Jon Kleinberg were keynote speakers and special guests. The conference drew 1,079 participants from 46 countries and 858 online viewers.

“It was a very top conference,” explained PhD candidate Michael Shavlovsky, from one of the leading computer science department’s at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

“Unlike the more local conferences in the United States or Europe, this conference was truly global and had papers accepted from all over the world. It was the world’s best computer scientists exchanging their ideas in Rio de Janeiro.”

Inventor of Duolingo language software, Luis Von Ahn, delivered his much anticipated keynote speech on Wednesday. Born in Guatemala, Von Ahn sighted his upbringing in a poor country as inspiration for his revolutionary free language learning software.

Von Ahn’s creation, Duolingo, is a very successful and effective language instruction website that is made free by using the content being translated in lessons to translate real phrases on the web. “There’s about 1.2 billion people in the world wanting to learn a language and 800 million of them are trying to learn English. And also the majority of them are either poor or extremely poor and the reason they’re learning a language is not to take a trip, but to get a better job.” he said.

“At the same time, most language learning methods cost a lot of money. So, I wanted to come up with a way to teach languages for free and that was the idea with Duolingo. And the way we ended up being able to make it free and we used their mental energy to do something that’s valuable, in this case that’s translation,” explained Von Ahn to the audience at his keynote address.

Tim Berners-Lee, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Tim Berners-Lee and Deputy Alessandro Molon discuss internet law, photo by Anna Kaiser.

Another memorable keynote speaker was famed Brazilian neuroscientist, Dr. Miguel Nicolelis. São Paulo born and U.S. educated, Dr. Nicolelis presented his research on computer-brain interfaces, where he has successfully transmitted brain waves through a live-being to a computer.

In collaboration with Japanese scientists, Nicolelis used his technology to transmit the brain waves from a primate in North Carolina to connect to a robot in Tokyo. The robot was essentially using the brain of the primate and was moving in real time with it.

Dr. Nicolelis hopes to showcase Brazilian science at the opening ceremony of the 2014 World Cup, where he would use his technology from The Walk Again Project to have a paraplegic person give the first kick to start the cup.

Tim Berners-Lee, considered by many to be the inventor of the World Wide Web, alongside Deputy Alessandro Molon discussed internet law in Brazil. For Berners-Lee, the internet laws in the U.S. are a monstrosity with manipulative language that can turn ordinary citizens into criminals.

Brazil’s Marco Civil da Internet project is Brazil’s proposed internet legislation, which highlights the necessity for neutrality and human rights in terms of internet law. For Berners-Lee, this is the world’s leading proposed web legislation.

“It was an amazing opportunity for me as a PhD student to see examples of how to make a successful publication. Also, all of the top tech companies were there; Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Windows, etc. so it was crucial for networking in the computer science industry and gave a general overview of the best in the field,” explained Shavlovsky to The Rio Times.

After it’s appearance in Latin America’s most developed internet industry, the WWW Conference will be held in Seoul, South Korea next year.

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