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Deniz Kalaslioglu, Co-Founder & CTO of Soar Robotics – Interview Series

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Deniz Kalaslioglu is the Co-Founder & CTO of Soar Robotics a cloud-connected Robotic Intelligence platform for drones.

You have over 7 years of experience in operating AI-back autonomous drones. Could you share with us some of the highlights throughout your career?

Back in 2012, drones were mostly perceived as military tools by the majority. On the other hand, the improvements in mobile processors, sensors and battery technology had already started creating opportunities for consumer drones to become mainstream. A handful of companies were trying to make this happen, and it became obvious to me that if correct research and development steps were taken, these toys could soon become irreplaceable tools that help many industries thrive.

I participated exclusively in R&D teams throughout my career, in automotive and RF design. I founded a drone service provider startup in 2013, where I had the chance to observe many of the shortcomings of human-operated drones, as well as their potential benefits for industries. I’ve led two research efforts in a timespan of 1.5 years, where we addressed the problem of autonomous outdoor and indoor flight.

Precision landing and autonomous charging was another issue that I have tackled later on. Solving these issues meant fully-autonomous operation with minimal human intervention throughout the operation cycle. At the time, solving the problem of fully-autonomous operation was huge and it enabled us to create intelligent systems that don’t need any human operator to execute flights; which resulted in safer, cost-effective and efficient flights. The “AI” part came into play later on in 2015, where deep learning algorithms could be effectively used to solve problems that were previously solved through classical computer vision and/or learning methods. We leveraged robotics to enable fully-autonomous flights and deep learning to transform raw data into actionable intelligence.

 

What inspired you to launch Soar Robotics?

Drones lack sufficient autonomy and intelligence features to become the next revolutionary tools for humans. They become inefficient and primitive tools in the hands of a human operator, both in terms of flight and post-operation data handling. Besides, these robots have very little access to real-time and long-term robotic intelligence that they can consume to become smarter.

As a result of my experience in this field, I have come to an understanding that the current commercial robotics paradigm is inefficient which is limiting the growth of many industries. I co-founded Soar Robotics to tackle some very difficult engineering challenges to make intelligent aerial operations a reality, which in turn will provide high-quality and cost-efficient solutions for many industries.

 

Soar Robotics provides a fully autonomous cloud connected robotics intelligence platform for drones. What are the types of applications that are best served by these drones?

Our cloud-connected robotics intelligence platform is designed as a modular system that can serve almost any application by utilizing the specific functionalities implemented within the cloud. Some industries such as security, solar energy, construction, and agriculture are currently in immediate need of this technology.

  • Surveillance of a perimeter for security,
  • Inspection and analysis of thermal and visible faults in solar energy,
  • Progress tracking and management in construction and agriculture

These are the main applications with the highest beneficial impact that we focus on.

 

For a farmer who wishes to use this technology, what are some of use cases that will benefit them versus traditional human-operated drones?

As with all our applications, we also provide end-to-end service for precision agriculture. Currently, the drone workflow in almost any industry is as follows:

  • the operator carries the drone and its accessories to the field,
  • the operator creates a flight plan,
  • the operator turns on the drone, uploads the flight plan for the specific task in hand,
  • drone arms and executes the planned mission and return to its takeoff coordinates, drone lands,
  • the operator turns off the drone,
  • the operator shares the data with the client (or the related department if hired in-house),
  • the data is processed accurately to become actionable insights for the specific industry.

It is crucial to point out that this workflow is proven to be very inefficient, especially in sectors such as solar energy, agriculture and construction where collecting periodic and objective aerial data for vast lands is essential. A farmer who uses our technology is able to get measurable, actionable and accurate insights on:

  • plant health and rigor,
  • nitrogen intake of the soil,
  • optimization and effectiveness of irrigation methods
  • early detection of disease and pest

Without having to go through all the hassle mentioned above, without even clicking a button every time. I firmly believe that enabling drones with autonomous features and cloud intelligence will provide considerable savings in terms of time, labor and money.

 

How will the drones be used for solar farm operators?

We handle almost everything that needs counting and measuring in all stages of the solar project. In the pre-construction and planning period, we generate topographic model, hydrologic analysis and obstacle analysis with high geographical precision and accuracy. During the construction period, we generate daily maps and videos of the site. After processing the collected media we measure the progress of the piling structures’, the mounting racks’ and the photovoltaic panels’ installations, position, area and volume measurements of trenches and inverter foundations as well as counting the construction machinery/vehicles and personnel on the site.

When the construction is over, and the solar site is fully operational Soar’s autonomous system continues its daily flights but this time generating thermal maps and videos along with visible spectrum maps and videos. From thermal data, Soar’s algorithms detect cell, multi-cell, diode, string, combiner and inverter level defects. From visible spectrum data, Soar’s algorithms detect shattering, soiling, shadowing, vegetation and missing panels. As a result, Soar’s software generates a detailed report of the detected faults and marks them on the as-built and RGB map of the site down to cell level, as well as showing all detected errors on a table; indicating string, row and module numbers with geolocations. Also clients’ total loss due to the inefficiencies caused by these faults and prioritize each depending on their importance and urgency.

 

In July 2019 Soar Robotics joined NVIDIA’s Inception Program which is an exclusive program for AI startups. How has this experience influenced you personally and how Soar Robotics is managed?

Throughout the months, this was proven to be an extremely beneficial program for us. We had already been using NVIDIA products both for onboard computation as well as the cloud side. This program has a lot of perks that streamlined our research, development and test processes.

 

Soar Robotics will be generating recurring revenue with Robotics-as-a-Service (RaaS) model. What is this model exactly and how does it differ from SaaS?

It possesses many similarities with SaaS in terms of its application and effects to our business model. RaaS model is especially critical since hardware is involved; most of our clients don’t want to own the hardware and only interested in the results. Cloud software and the new generations of robotics hardware blend together more and more each day.

This results in some fundamental changes in industrial robotics which used to be about stationary robots with repetitive tasks that didn’t need much of an intelligence. Operating under this mindset we provide our clients’ with robot connectivity and cloud robotics services to augment what their hardware would normally be capable of achieving.

Therefore Robotics-as-a-Service encapsulates all hardware and software tools that we utilize to create domain-specific robots for our clients’ purpose in the form of drones, communications hardware and cloud intelligence.

 

What are your predictions for drone technology in the coming decade?

Drones have clearly proven their value for enterprises, and the usage will only continue to increase. We have witnessed many businesses trying to integrate drones into their workflows, with only a few of them achieving great ROIs and most of them failing due to the inefficient nature of current commercial drone applications. Since the drone industry hype began to fade, we have seen a rapid consolidation in the market, especially in the last couple of years.  I believe that this was a necessary step for the industry, which opened the path to real productivity and better opportunities for products and services that are actually beneficial for enterprises. The addressable market that the commercial drones will create until 2025 is expected to exceed $100B, which in my opinion is a fairly modest estimation.

 

  • We will see an exponential rise in “Beyond Visual Line of Sight” flights, which will be the enabling factor for many use cases of commercial UAVs.
  • The advancements in battery technology such as hydrogen fuel cells will extend the flight times by at least an order of magnitude, which will also be a driving factor for many novel use cases.
  • Drone-in-a-box systems are still perceived as somehow experimental, but we will definitely see this technology become ubiquitous in the next decade.
  • There have been ongoing tests that are conducted by companies of various sizes in urban air mobility market, which could be broken down into roughly three segments, namely last-mile delivery, aerial public transport and aerial personal transport. The commercialization of these segments will definitely happen in the coming decade.

 

Is there anything else that you would like to share about Soar Robotics?

We believe that the feasibility and commercialization of autonomous aerial operations mainly depend on solving the problem of aerial vehicle connectivity. For drones to be able to operate Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) they need seamless coverage, real-time high throughput data transmission, command and control, identification, and regulation. Although there have been some successful attempts to leverage current mobile networks as a communications method, these networks have many shortcomings and are far from becoming the go-to solution for aerial vehicles.

We have been developing a connectivity hardware and software stack that have the capability of forming ad hoc drone networks. We expect that these networking capabilities will enable seamless, safe and intelligent operations for any type of autonomous aerial vehicle. We are rolling the alpha and beta releases of the hardware in the coming months to test our products with larger user bases under various usage conditions and start forming these ad-hoc networks to serve many industries.

To learn more visit Soar Robotics or to invest in this company visit the Crowdfunding Page on Republic.

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Antoine Tardif is a Futurist who is passionate about the future of AI and robotics. He is the CEO of BlockVentures.com, and has invested in over 50 AI & blockchain projects. He is also the Co-Founder of Securities.io a news website focusing on digital securities, and is a founding partner of unite.ai

Ethics

Andrea Sommer, Founder & Business Lead at UvvaLabs – Interview Series

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Andrea Sommer is the Founder & Business Lead at UvvaLabs, a female-founded technology company that uses AI to help companies make better decisions that create more diverse and accessible workforces.

Could you discuss how UvvaLabs uses AI to assist companies in creating more diverse and accessible workforces?

Our approach looks at offering structural solutions to the very structural problem of inequity in the workplace. Through our research and experience, we’ve built a model of what the ‘ideal’ organization looks like from a diversity and accessibility perspective. Our AI analyzes and evaluates data across an organization to create a version of that organization’s ‘current state’ from a diversity perspective. By comparing the two sides – the ideal to the current – we can offer recommendations on what structures to build and which to remove to bring the organization closer to that ideal state.

What was the inspiration for launching UvvaLabs?

My co-founder and I are childhood friends who have had a lifelong passion for dismantling the barriers to equity, but we’ve done so in very different ways. My co-founder Laura took the academic path, getting a PhD in Sociology from UC Berkeley. Her research and experience has been focused on building rigorous methodologies that work in low-quality data environments, especially studying racial bias. I went down the business path, first working as a strategist across global technology brands, getting an MBA from London Business School and then building my first business in the analytics space. Despite our divergent paths we have stayed in touch throughout the years. When I returned to the US after living in London for the last 11 years, the opportunity to collaborate on a project together presented itself and UvvaLabs was born.

One current issue with using AI to hire staff is that it can unintentionally reinforce societal biases such as racism and sexism. How big of an issue do you believe this to be?

This is a huge issue. Frequently decision makers believe that AI can solve all problems instead of understanding that it is a tool that requires a human counterpart to make smart decisions. Recruitment is no different – there are many products out there that claim to reduce or remove bias from the process. But AI is only as strong as the algorithm running it, and this is always built by people. Even the strongest AI system cannot be completely free of bias since all humans have biases.

For example, many AI recruitment tools are designed to offer or match candidates to a role in the most cost-effective way possible. This unintended focus on cost actually creates a huge inflection point for bias. In typical organizations, hiring diverse talent takes more time and effort because power structures tend to reproduce themselves and tend to be homogenous. However, the benefits of building a more diverse workforce far outweigh any initial costs.

How does UvvaLabs avoid having these biases into the AI system?

The best way to build any technology including AI that is free from bias is by having a team that is composed of both people who have been historically marginalized and who are experts in research methods designed to minimize bias. That’s the approach we take at UvvaLabs.

Uvvalabs uses a broad variety of data sources to understand an organization’s diversity environment. Could you touch on what some of these data sources are?

Organizations are low-quality data environments. Frequently there is little consistency between companies or even departments in terms of what is created and how. Our technology is designed to provide rigorous analysis in these types of environments by combining a mixture of quantitative and qualitative data sources. The key for us is that we only analyze what is readily available and easily shareable – so that the approach is as low-touch as possible.

Uvvalabs offers a dashboard showing various indicators for organizational health. Could you discuss what these indicators are and the type of actionable insight that is provided? 

Every organization is different, so each organization will likely use Uvva in a slightly different way. This is because every organization is at a different stage in their diversity journey. There is no one size fits all formula – our approach flexes to each organization’s priorities, what is currently being measured and available, as well as where the organization wants to go. This exercise is what defines the recommendations our tool provides.

As a woman serial entrepreneur do you have any advice for women who are contemplating launching a new business?

Startups are a boy’s club and it is objectively harder for women, and even harder for women of color. We shouldn’t shy away from the reality that women and people of color have been systematically shut out of opportunities, capital, communities and networks of access. That said, this is slowly changing. For instance, more and more funds are opening up that specifically are geared towards women or BIPOC. Incubators and accelerators are thinking and acting more inclusively as they shape their programs and practices. Diverse entrepreneurial communities are emerging and growing.

My advice for anyone who aspires to be an entrepreneur is to take a stab. It won’t always be easy. And it might not work. But entrepreneurship is filled with people who break with convention and prove naysayers wrong. We need more women and minorities in this community. We need their dreams, their products and their stories.

You are also the founder of Hive Founders, a non-profit network that brings female founders together. Could you give us some details on this non-profit and how it can help women?

Hive Founders is a global network of support for women across the globe, no matter what stage they are in. Every business is unique but there are many lessons we can learn from each other. In addition to the community, Hive Founders hosts events, podcasts, and a newsletter – all designed to bring resources and knowledge to our community of founders.

Is there anything else that you would like to share about UvvaLabs?

Every organization has the potential to transform itself into a more productive, diverse and accessible workplace, regardless of what structures are in place today. There are competitive reasons for investing in diversity. For one, the customer landscape is changing – the United States for instance will be majority minority by 2044. In practice this means customer profiles are changing too. Every company wants to be as attractive as possible to their customers and as competitive as possible against similar offerings. Diversity is that competitive asset. Smart companies and their leaders understand this and will get ahead of the curve to ensure their workplaces and products serve and support as many different types of people as possible.

Thank you for the great interview, I really enjoyed learning about your views on diversity and AI bias. Readers who wish to learn more should visit UvvaLabs.

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Data Science

Jean Belanger, Co-Founder & CEO at Cerebri AI – Interview Series

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Jean Belanger, is the Co-Founder & CEO at Cerebri AI, a pioneer in artificial intelligence and machine learning, is the creator of Cerebri Values™, the industry’s first universal measure of customer success. Cerebri Values quantifies each customer’s commitment to a brand or product and dynamically predicts “Next Best Actions” at scale, which enables large companies to focus on accelerating profitable growth.

What was it that initially attracted you to AI?

Cerebri AI is my 2nd data science startup. My first used operations research modelling to optimize order processing for major retail and ecommerce operations. 4 of the top US 10 retailers, including Walmart, used our technology. AI has a huge advantage, which really attracted me. Models learn, which means they are more scalable. Which means we can build and scale awesome technology that really, really adds value.

Can you tell us about your journey to become a co-founder of Cerebri AI?

I was mentoring at a large accelerator here in Austin, Texas – Capital Factory – and I was asked to write the business plan for Cerebri AI.  So, I leveraged my experience of doing data science, with over 80 data science-based installs using our technology. Sometimes you just need to go for it.

What are some of the challenges that enterprises currently face when it comes to CX and customer/brand relationships?

The simple answer is that every business tries to understand their customers’ behavior, so they can satisfy their needs. You cannot get into someone’s head to sort out why they buy a product or service when they do, so brands must do the best they can. Surveys, tracking market share, or measuring market segmentation. There are thousands of ways of tracking or understanding customers. However, the underlying basis for everything is rarely thought about, and that is Moore’s Law.  More powerful, cheaper semiconductors, processors etc., from Intel, Apple, Taiwan Semi, etc., make our modern economy work at such a compute intense level relative to a few years ago. Today, the cost of cloud computing and memory resources make AI doable.  AI is VERY compute intensive. Things that were not possible, even five years ago, can now be done. In terms of customer behavior, we can now process all the info and data that we have digitally recorded in one customer journey per customer. So, customer behavior is suddenly much easier to understand and react to. This is key, and that is the future of selling products and services.

Cerebri AI personalizes the enterprise by combining machine learning and cloud computing to enhance brand commitment. How does the AI increase brand commitment?

When Cerebri AI looks at a customer, the first thing we establish is their commitment to the brand we are working with. We define commitment to the brand as the customer’s willingness to spend in the future. Its fine to be in business and have committed customers, but if they do not buy your goods and services, then in effect, you are out of business. The old saying goes – if you cannot measure something, you cannot improve it.  Now we can measure commitment and other key metrics, which means we can use our data monitoring tools and study a customer’s journey to see what works and what does not. Once we find a tactic that works, our campaign building tools can instantly build a cohort of customers that might be similarly impacted. All of this is impossible without AI and the cloud infrastructure at the software layer, which allows us to move in so many directions with customers.

What type of data does Cerebri collect? Or use within its system? How does this comply with PII (Personally Identifiable Information) restrictions?

Until now we only operate behind the customer’s firewall, so PII has not been an issue. We are going to open a direct access web site in the Fall, so that will require use of anonymized data. We are excited about the prospect of bringing our advanced technology to a broader array of companies and organizations.

You are working with the Bank of Canada, Canada’s central bank, to introduce AI to their macroeconomic forecasting. Could you describe this relationship, and how your platform is being used?

The Bank of Canada is an awesome customer. Brilliant people and macroeconomic experts.  We started 18 months or so ago. Introducing AI into the technology choices the bank’s team would have at their disposal. We started with predictions of quarterly GDP for Canada.  That was great, now we are expanding the dataset used in the AI-based forecasts to increase accuracy, etc.  To do this, we developed an AI optimizer, which automates the thousands of choices facing a data scientist when they carry out a modelling exercise. Macro-economic time series require a very sophisticated approach when you are dealing with decades of data, all of which may have an impact on overall GDP.  The AI Optimizer was so successful that we decided to incorporate this into Cerebri AI’s standard CCX platform offering.  It will be used in all future engagements.  Amazing technology.  One of the reasons we have filed 24 patents to date.

Cerebri AI launched CCX v2 in the autumn last year. What is this platform exactly?

Our CCX offering has three components.

Our CCX platform, which consists of a 10-stage software pipeline, which our data scientists use to build their models and product insights. It is also our deployment system from data intake to our UX and insights.  We have several applications in our offering, such as QM for quality management of the entire process, and Audit, which tells users what features drive the insights they are seeing.

Then, we have our Insights themselves, which are generated from our modelling technology. Our flagship insight is our Cerebri Values, which is a customer’s commitment to your brand, which is – in effect – a measure of how much money a customer is willing to spend in the future on a brand’s products and services.

We derive a host of customer engagement and revenue KPI insights from our core offering and we can help with our next best action{set}s to drive engagement, up-selling, cross-selling, reducing churn, etc.

You sat down to interview representatives from four major faith traditions in the world today — Islam, Hinduism, Judaism and Christianity. Have your views of the world shifted since these interviews, and is there one major insight that you would like to share with our readers during the current pandemic?

Diversity matters. Not because it is a goal in and of itself, but because treating anyone in anything less than a totally equitable manner is just plain stupid. Period. When I was challenged to put in a program to reinforce Cerebri AI’s commitment to diversity, it was apparent to me that what we used to learn as children, in our houses of worship, has been largely forgotten.  So, I decided to ask the faith communities and their leaders in the US to tell us how they think through treating everyone equally. The sessions have proved to be incredibly popular, and we make them available to anyone who wants to use them in their business.

On the pandemic, I have an expert at home. My wife is a world-class epidemiologist.  She told me on day one. Make sure the people most at risk are properly isolated, she called this epi-101. This did not happen. The effects have been devastating.  Age discrimination is not just an equity problem in working, it is also all about how we treat our parents, grandparents, etc., wherever they are residing.  We did not distinguish ourselves in the pandemic in how we dealt with nursing home residents, for example, a total disaster in many communities. I live in Texas, we are the 2nd biggest state population wise, and our pandemic-related deaths per population is 40th in the US among all states.  Arguably the best in Europe is Germany with 107 pandemic deaths per million, Texas sits at 77, so our state authorities have done a great job so far.

You’ve stated that a lot of the media focuses on the doom and gloom of AI but does not focus enough on how the technology can be useful to make our lives better. What are your views on some of the improvements in our lives that we will witness from the further advancement of AI?

Our product helps eliminate spam email from the vendors you do business with. Does it get better than that? Just kidding. There are so many fields where AI is helping, it is difficult to imagine a world without AI.

Is there anything else that you would like to share about Cerebri AI?

The sky’s the limit, as understanding customer behavior is only really just beginning. Being enabled for the first time by AI and the totally massive compute power available on the cloud and due to Moore’s Law.

Thank you for the great interviews, readers who wish to learn more should visit Cerebri AI.

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Computing

Huma Abidi, Senior Director of AI Software Products at Intel – Interview Series

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Huma Abidi is a Senior Director of AI Software Products at Intel, responsible for strategy, roadmaps, requirements, machine learning and analytics software products. She leads a globally diverse team of engineers and technologists responsible for delivering world-class products that enable customers to create AI solutions. Huma joined Intel as a software engineer and has since worked in a variety of engineering, validation and management roles in the area of compilers, binary translation, and AI and deep learning. She is passionate about women’s education, supporting several organizations around the world for this cause, and was a finalist for VentureBeat’s 2019 Women in AI award in the mentorship category.

What initially sparked your interest in AI?

I’ve always found it interesting to imagine what could happen if machines could speak, or see, or interact intelligently with humans. Because of some big technical breakthroughs in the last decade, including deep learning gaining popularity because of the availability of data, compute power, and algorithms, AI has now moved from science fiction to real world applications. Solutions we had imagined previously are now within reach. It is truly an exciting time!

In my previous job, I was leading a Binary Translation engineering team, focused on optimizing software for Intel hardware platforms. At Intel, we recognized that the developments in AI would lead to huge industry transformations, demanding tremendous growth in compute power from devices to Edge to cloud and we sharpened our focus to become a data-centric company.

Realizing the need for powerful software to make AI a reality, the first challenge I took on was to lead the team in creating AI software to run efficiently on Intel Xeon CPUs by optimizing deep learning frameworks like Caffe and TensorFlow. We were able to demonstrate more than 200-fold performance increases due to a combination of Intel hardware and software innovations.

We are working to make all of our customer workloads in various domains run faster and better on Intel technology.

 

What can we do as a society to attract women to AI?

It’s a priority for me and for Intel to get more women in STEM and computer science in general, because diverse groups will build better products for a diverse population. It’s especially important to get more women and underrepresented minorities in AI, because of potential biases lack of representation can cause when creating AI solutions.

In order to attract women, we need to do a better job explaining to girls and young women how AI is relevant in the world, and how they can be part of creating exciting and impactful solutions. We need to show them that AI spans so many different areas of life, and they can use AI technology in their domain of interest, whether it’s art or robotics or data journalism or television. Exciting applications of AI they can easily see making an impact e.g. virtual assistants like Alexa, self-driving cars, social media, how Netflix knows which movies they want to watch, etc.

Another key part of attracting women is representation. Fortunately, there are many women leaders in AI who can serve as excellent role models, including Fei-Fei Li, who is leading human-centered AI at Stanford, and Meredith Whittaker, who is working on social implications through the AI Now Institute at NYU.

We need to work together to adopt inclusive business practices and expand access of technology skills to women and underrepresented minorities. At Intel, our 2030 goal is to increase women in technical roles to 40% and we can only achieve that by working with other companies, institutes, and communities.

 

How can women best break into the industry?  

There are a few options if you want to break into AI specifically. There are numerous online courses in AI, including UDACITY’s free Intel Edge AI Fundamentals course. Or you could go back to school, for example at one of Maricopa County’s community colleges for an AI associate degree – and study for a career in AI e.g. Data Scientist, Data Engineer, ML/DL developer, SW Engineer etc.

If you already work at a tech company, there are likely already AI teams. You could check out the option to spend part of your time on an AI team that you’re interested in.

You can also work on AI if you don’t work at a tech company. AI is extremely interdisciplinary, so you can apply AI to almost any domain you’re involved in. As AI frameworks and tools evolve and become more user-friendly, it becomes easier to use AI in different settings. Joining online events like Kaggle competitions is a great way to work on real-world machine learning problems that involve data sets you find interesting.

The tech industry also needs to put in time, effort, and money to reach out to and support women, including women who are also underrepresented ethnic minorities. On a personal note, I’m involved in organizations like Girls Who Code and Girl Geek X, which connect and inspire young women.

 

With Deep learning and reinforcement learning recently gaining the most traction, what other forms of machine learning should women pay attention to?

AI and machine learning are still evolving, and exciting new research papers are being published regularly. Some areas to focus on right now include:

  1. Classical ML techniques that continue to be important and are widely used.
  2. Responsible/Explainable AI, that has become a critical part of AI lifecycle and from a deployability of deep learning and reinforcement learning point-of-view.
  3. Graph Neural Networks and multi-modal learning that get insights by learning from rich relation information among graph data.

 

AI bias is a huge societal issue when it comes to bias towards women and minorities. What are some ways of solving these issues?

When it comes to AI, biases in training samples, human labelers and teams can be compounded to discriminate against diverse individuals, with serious consequences.

It is critical that diversity is prioritized at every step of the process. If women and other minorities from the community are part of the teams developing these tools, they will be more aware of what can go wrong.

It is also important to make sure to include leaders across multiple disciplines such as social scientists, doctors, philosophers and human rights experts to help define what is ethical and what is not.

 

Can you explain the AI blackbox problem, and why AI explainability is important?

In AI, models are trained on massive amounts of data before they make decisions. In most AI systems, we don’t know how these decisions were made — the decision-making process is a black box, even to its creators. And it may not be possible to really understand how a trained AI program is arriving at its specific decision. A problem arises when we suspect that the system isn’t working. If we suspect the system of algorithmic biases, it’s difficult to check and correct for them if the system is unable to explain its decision making.

There is currently a major research focus on eXplainable AI (XAI) that intends to equip AI models with transparency, explainability and accountability, which will hopefully lead to Responsible AI.

 

In your keynote address during MITEF Arab Startup Competition final award ceremony and conference you discussed Intel’s AI for Social Good initiatives. Which of these Social Good projects has caught your attention and why is it so important?

I continue to be very excited about all of Intel’s AI for Social Good initiatives, because breakthroughs in AI can lead to transformative changes in the way we tackle problem solving.

One that I especially care about is the Wheelie, an AI-powered wheelchair built in partnership with HOOBOX Robotics. The Wheelie allows extreme paraplegics to regain mobility by using facial expressions to drive. Another amazing initiative is TrailGuard AI, which uses Intel AI technology to fight illegal poaching and protect animals from extinction and species loss.

As part of Intel’s Pandemic Response Initiative, we have many on-going projects with our partners using AI. One key initiative is contactless fever detection or COVID-19 detection via chest radiography with Darwin AI. We’re also working on bots that can answer queries to increase awareness using natural language processing in regional languages.

 

For women who are interested in getting involved, are there books, websites, or other resources that you would recommend?  

There are many great resources online, for all experience levels and areas of interest. Coursera and Udacity offer excellent online courses on machine learning and seep learning, most of which can be audited for free. MIT’s OpenCourseWare is another great, free way to learn from some of the world’s best professors.

Companies such as Intel have AI portals that contain a lot of information about AI including offered solutions. There are many great books on AI: foundational computer science texts like Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach by Peter Norvig and Stuart Russell, and modern, philosophical books like Homo Deus by historian Yuval Hararri. I’d also recommend Lex Fridman’s AI podcast on great conversations from a wide range of perspectives and experts from different fields.

 

Do you have any last words for women who are curious about AI but are not yet ready to leap in?

AI is the future, and will change our society — in fact, it already has. It’s essential that we have honest, ethical people working on it. Whether in a technical role, or at a broader social level, now is a perfect time to get involved!

Thank you for the interview, you are certainly an inspiration for women the world over. Readers who wish to learn more about the software solutions at Intel should visit AI Software Products at Intel.

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