Bertelsmann Ethical Matrix Challenge | NYU Tandon School of Engineering

Bertelsmann Ethical Matrix Challenge

Forging New Frontiers in Media, Services, Education, & Healthcare AI

Bertelsmann, in collaboration with the NYC Media Lab at NYU Tandon School of Engineering (NYCML), is on the lookout for AI that not only dazzles but also dignifies across media, services, education, and healthcare. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the talk of the tech town, but it's not just about flash and number crunching – it's about responsible innovation, which this new challenge calls for.



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The 2024 Challenge

The Ethical Matrix Challenge: Forging New Frontiers in Media, Services, Education, and Healthcare AI, an inventive quest to merge ethical AI with real-world influence. We're scouting for projects that can responsibly revolutionize the way we engage with content, enhance services & service experiences, transform educational realms, and elevate the healthcare industry.

Bertelsmann and NYCML are rolling out the red carpet for up to five standout teams to embark on an elapsed 6-month journey of growth and guidance. Here, in this collaborative incubator, you'll finesse your AI solutions with input from industry heavyweights and academic gurus, ensuring your AI can not only talk the talk but walk the walk—ethically.

If you've got an AI project with a conscience that's ready to scale new heights, we're ready for you. Bring your A-game and join forces with us to chart a responsible course for AI's future, where progress and principles coexist. It's not just smart; it's the smart thing to do.

Register for one of our online info sessions (May 9 or May 13) to learn more.

Apply! Application Deadline: Sunday, May 19, 2024, 11:59 pm ET

Program Details

During the elapsed 6-months, teams will meet 14 times to discuss development, address challenges, and refine plans as well as their pitches.  Outside speakers will be invited to provide their perspective on artificial intelligence and the teams’ specific projects.  Bertelsmann will arrange one-on-one meetings with its executives from Fremantle, BMG Music, and Penguin Random House, as well as its other operating companies and divisions. 

Regarding the elapsed 6-months, we are looking to kick off weekly remote sessions with an orientation on May 30, 2024.  Teams will meet remotely weekly for four weeks, ending the last week in June 2024. Teams will have the summer to advance their thinking and development, with only one check-in during July 2024 (tentatively July 30).  Remote weekly sessions will resume in September 2024 for another eight weeks culminating in a Demo Day / Showcase at the end of October 2024, in which Bertelsmann and The NYC Media Lab will host a Demo Day for the teams to demonstrate the outcome of their Challenge projects. 

Ideally two members of every team (at least) will be available for these remote sessions. 

Sessions may be recorded and shared with Bertelsmann and NYC Media Lab audiences for more awareness and feedback for the teams. 

Applicants should be prepared to create something during the Challenge, be it an extension of a current offering or solution, a new function or feature, or an adaption of their product or service for the noted industries.  

Given the dialogue and collaboration with the Bertelsmann executives participating, established teams and projects (rather than new ideas, research, or teams that have not yet built a working prototype or more) will be given priority during selection.

To note: Participants retain their intellectual property, there is nothing transferred to the NYC Media Lab or Bertelsmann. 

For further information, please contact Robert Clauser or


Previous Challenges

Focus on Books, Music, Film & Television

If one were to read the headlines, they would have found the Writers Guild of America on strike partly because of concerns that AI could replace them. The music industry just witnessed, or rather listened to, “Heart on my Sleeve,” composed by AI and performed by an AI Drake. 

Is this another Renaissance (and arts will flourish) or has Pandora’s box been thrown open thanks to the geyser that is artificial intelligence? 

This is the question that Bertelsmann and the NYC Media Lab explored in the 2023 Challenge: How will AI impact the creative industries? 

Four teams joined this Challenge in an open exploration of the future of artificial intelligence, including breakthrough opportunities that could boost Bertelsmann’s content creators, audiences, and businesses in the years to come. The Challenge asked teams to explore new ways to utilize artificial intelligence specifically for Fremantle TVPenguin Random House, and Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG) in creating digital content, reaching new audiences, and operating its businesses. 

AuthorAI created AI-driven avatars for media and training, including on-demand, responsive author talkbacks. Theater of Latent Possibilities looked at live entertainment, reimagining scripts as living documents as well as applying generative AI in the writer’s room. SmartPlayr harnessed AI in the newsroom to repurpose video folks in the proper informational context.  Wavetable used natural language to generate non-commercial music, sound effects and audio content for use in production. 

September – November 2023

NYC Media Lab and Bertelsmann conducted a 12-week open-ended exploration of the future of NFTs and blockchain in the music, book, publishing, and TV industries with 3 startup teams. 

For nearly two centuries, Bertelsmann has maintained a culture of creativity and entrepreneurship, taking market-leading positions in mature sectors while simultaneously building new business frontiers enabled by technology. One of those frontiers is blockchain, which Bertelsmann has been an “early mover” for by testing and experimenting with use cases that touch its core media, services, and education businesses. This NYC Media Lab NFT and Blockchain Challenge carried the same creative, entrepreneurial spirit, seeking breakthrough opportunities unlocked by blockchain and NFTs to boost Bertelsmann’s business in the years, decades, and centuries ahead.

This challenge asked participants to explore new ways to create digital assets and interactive content to reach new audiences in the music, book publishing, and TV industries. The final output included a digital asset or assets, alongside a presentation, to explain how the project was a compelling use case amongst one or more of the above listed industries.

The three teams participating in the Bertelsmann challenge all experienced significant pivots during the program, with all landing on different paths from where they originally started. Quicksplits maintained its core focus on blockchain enabled royalty contracts, transitions to the new name and platform Slyce. Mowies, the content creator looking to use NFTs to create revenue streams for its artists, suffered the slings and arrows of the collapsing crypto and NFT markets and shuttered, finding new roles for its team in other organizations. EvergreenNFT, taking the counsel of many Bertelsmann executives, shifted its focus to the actual content (“would you rather own the Mona Lisa, or the receipt?” in their words), and with Demo Day, refined and focused even further on data security.

April - June 2022

Participating teams met weekly with NYC Media Lab and Bertelsmann to present progress and receive feedback in a cohort-based setting. The feedback focused on rapid prototyping, as well as experiments in product-market fit. 

The program concluded with a final presentation and demo day for Bertelsmann leadership and select members of the NYCML community.

About Bertelsmann

Bertelsmann is a media, services and education company with more than 80,000 employees that operates in about 50 countries around the world. It includes the entertainment group RTL Group, the trade book publisher Penguin Random House, the music company BMG, the service provider Arvato Group, Bertelsmann Marketing Services, the Bertelsmann Education Group and Bertelsmann Investments, an international network of funds. The company generated revenues of €20.2 billion in the 2023 financial year (annual report). Bertelsmann stands for creativity and entrepreneurship. This combination promotes first-class media content and innovative service solutions that inspire customers around the world. Bertelsmann aspires to achieve climate neutrality by 2030.

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