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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

New UAE Google hub seeks to capture imagination of technology-hooked pupils

UAE University working with search-engine pioneer to educate 60 per day

Innovation Hub Powered by Google - community area.  Courtesy actionimpact 2017
Innovation Hub Powered by Google - community area. Courtesy actionimpact 2017

UAE University is to work with Google to develop a technology lab that seeks to turn young people's obsession with phones and gadgets into a desire to create their own products and businesses.

The Google Innovation Hub was announced yesterday and is scheduled to open by the end of this year. The centre, to be built on the university's campus, focuses on showing young people how they could produce Android apps, build robots and how to master search engine engine technology.

Students aged between eight and 24 from across Abu Dhabi emirate will be invited to visit the centre, which uses hands-on experiments to pique their interest. Google will train all of the centre's staff.

“The excessive use of mobile devices by our children is clear, but is it the right kind of use? With this centre we want it to become the right kind of use,” said Dr Ali Al Nuaimi, director general of Abu Dhabi Education Council and chancellor of UAE University.

“I want to see students from the innovation hub participating in the conference for exceptional people; I want someone to stand up and say I am participating from Abu Dhabi, we should have a stamp everywhere.

“We are proud to have a platform that enables students to interact with the future technology, not only the existing one, and not only by learning at schools.

“I want to see what every student will do, I want a real investment, when Google seniors visit the region, let them pass by and meet the students."

One of the main focuses will be to teach so-called machine learning, which Google used to develop Google Translate, and its search engine app Go Google. The user simply states what they are looking for and the results appear on the screen, as with Applie's Siri.

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One success to date was Tensor Flow – owned by Google - was used by a Japanese family to develop a cucumber business, said Selim Edde, head of public policy and government relations for Google in the Middle East and North Africa

“In Japan cucumber prices differ based on its size and flexibility, so a young man went on Tensor Flow and created a program to triage the cucumbers; he did it by himself, we did not have to create a programme specialised with cucumbers.”

Machine learning also includes figuring out how to win the Go Chinese chess-like game and other video games.

They would observe the ten thousand top players at a video game; “and we observe how they play, the program plays by itself two million times, so it reaches stages that exceed any other player who could play this game,” he explained.

“We are applying this type of horizontal artificial intelligence to everything.”

“This was created a year and a half ago by Deep Mind, a company owned by Google,” he added.

The hub will also include an App Factory, where students will create mobile apps for Android including coding in virtual reality using Google Cardboard and coding for the web using Chrome.

There will also be a Maker Space section, where students will learn 3D printing, robotics and laser cutting.

Mr Edde demonstrated a picture of how the three sections will look like; all rooms were colourful with a modern free-spirit theme, close to what Google offices generally look like.

“This centre will be the first of its kind in the region, because it will teach young people practical things in a fun and simple way; it will prepare them for the job market.”

While schools in the UAE already teach robotics, he said what is being provided is not enough.

“We already has this teaching programme at Google, and we modified in a simple easy to understand way."