Botcon Africa 2017 is next week – damn, time is flying this year – and ahead of its doors opening in the Cape Town, the organisers have announced the ‘con’s speaker line-up.

As one would it expect, it’s rather good.

This year’s keynote will be delivered by Martin Raison, Facebook’s Research Engineer at Facebook AI Research in Paris, on ‘teaching machines to interact with people’.

Raison’s very well versed in his field; prior to joining Facebook, he worked as an engineer on Wit.ai, a natural language processing platform that thousands of developers worldwide use to build chatbots. He’s a graduate of Standford University with a Masters in Computer Science and is currently working with Facebook to develop the next generation of conversational AI.

Other speakers include DataProphet’s Frans Cronje, who’ll be covering comprehension models for chatbots and Yonder Media’s Stuart Steedman who’ll be giving a primer on bots (described as ‘humanity’s relationship with automatons’) for those wanting a background to this form of AI.

Nick Cuthbert of WhereIsMyTransport will also be speaking, offering a presentation into his startups’ Public Transport Chatbot Experiment. The last speaker confirmed in the press release is MeerKAT’s Toufeeq Ockards who’ll be sharing his experiences of experimenting with bots on Twitter (one can only hope they were better than Microsoft’s experience with its AI Tay).

Here’s the full list of first round speakers:

  • Martin Raison (Facebook AI Research)
  • Stuart Steedman (Yonder Media)
  • Riana Smit (RetroRabbit)
  • Frans Cronje (DataProphet)
  • Justin Watson (Botpress)
  • Nick Cuthbert (Where’s my transport)
  • Toufeeq Ockards (SKA SA)
  • Angelique Kamara (Facebook)
  • Ryan Falkenberg (Clevva)
  • Belinda Lewis (Praekelt/Feersum Engine)
  • Johan de Villiers – (First Technology WC)
  • Rudolph Jacobs (RetroRabbit)
  • Bernardt Duvenhage (Praekelt/Feersum Engine)

If the above have you salivating, you can purchase tickets on on BotCon Africa’s official website and via Quicket. Tickets are R850 each, unless you’re a student, in which case they’re discounted to R350. The organiser were offering sponsored free tickets to those that applied but it seems they’re all gone now, so if you didn’t get one, you’ll have to pony up some dough.

It’s worth doing so, incidentally, even if you’re not a coder; Botcon Africa puts marketers, business owners, entrepreneurs and yes, us media, in the same space for several days so the networking opportunities are pretty tasty.

It all kicks off on May 25th at Workshop 17 at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.