From “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” to “2001: A Space Odyssey”, science fiction is replete with examples of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Today, AI has leaped out of the realms of fiction to become a reality. The invention of “deep learning”, which uses computer programs called “neural networks” to spot patterns in data and has spawned exciting applications from speech-to-text translation to even spotting early signs of blindness.
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Even India, which is slowly becoming a hub for research in AI, has come up with frugal solutions that have a direct on-ground impact. Also, it is not just the lab-coat-wearing researchers but developers as young as ten-years-old who are tinkering with the technology. CNBC-TV18, in collaboration with Meta, profiled three such stalwarts who represent India’s bright future in this field.
Vaishnavi hails from Pune, widely known as the Oxford of the East. The city teems with educational institutions that are flocked by eager beavers from around the country. Take Vaishnavi, a self-taught developer, who created an open source education bot that helps newcomers learn about Github, a web-based collaboration software for developers. She put this together on PyTorch, an open source AI tool.
She then moved on to create a “service chat support” that answers questions as a live agent would. Intelligently, the chatbots were trained based on archived conversations between customer support and users on Twitter. LazyBot, her first online chatbot answered five to ten basic questions with an integration with the famous Cornell Movie-Dialogs corpus, a rich collection of fictional conversations that are extracted from raw movie scripts.
All in all, this young developer has a great sense of humour and likes to have a bit of fun with her coding skills across Python, React and Kotlin programming languages. When not wired into her laptop, she practices public speaking and harbours excellent communication skills.
Her journey began back in 2019 when she was recognised among the top contributors in the city when it came to free efficient software and applications. There has been no looking back since.
She has also developed a health tracker that helps people self-diagnose some common diseases, read health blogs, and join chat rooms to interact and learn from others. She has built a crowd-sourced web app, too, called “StayWildSaveWild” that allows one to share illegal animal trafficking sites on the internet and help authorities nab miscreants.
Pratham Prasoon: Pratham is a 17-year-old self-taught programmer and an AI developer based in Mumbai. His fascination with AI began when he was in the seventh grade. His father had shared with him a link to a chatbot that would respond to customer queries like a human being would. This, in his own words, made him “go down the rabbit hole of understanding what Artificial Intelligence is and how can he learn to become an AI developer”.
During the pandemic, he learned Python frameworks that enabled him to make neural networks and pursue his passion. He shared his learnings on Twitter and gained a massive following.
His most notable projects include an evaluation matrix to help developers accurately test their machine learning models based on different use cases. Another fun project was to create art using AI. His third assignment powered by machine learning could predict property rates for a house in a given area based on past data analysis.
In this incredible journey, he credits Meta open source for being very well documented and easy to use. Thus, helping him implement features into his apps very quickly. More crucially, the forum is constantly buzzing with ideas and the network of developers are always ready to collaborate on common problems making “the whole experience very enjoyable”.
Vinayak Tara: A ten-year-old prodigy, Vinayak has a claim to the title of the “Youngest Robo Expert” by the Indian Book of Records. He is not just a techie but also has a knack to explain things to folks as if they are, well, ten years old. His one-day workshop in school on electronics with AI was a huge hit owing to his oratory skills and an uncanny aptitude to make things simple and “user-friendly”.
His accolades go far and wide. Mr. Dushuyant Chautala, the Deputy Chief Minister of Haryana awarded him recently for his exploits. He is also arguably among the youngest chief guests in the country when he pulled off that role with aplomb at the Derrick International School to showcase robotics. Vinayak recently created the most economical autonomous mobile-operated ventilator which was tested in a city hospital. His contraption stole the media limelight at the national level.
When Covid was rampant across the country, Vinayak used his technical and creative nous to also create an automatic hand-sanitizer dispenser prototype that could detect hand movements 2 cm across. Using robotics, one of his favourite subjects, he developed sunglasses with infrared sensors to maintain social distance and has applications for the blind too.
With the React Native open source UI software, Vinayak built a modern-looking login and sign-up page. A face-detection tool was put together using the PyTorch machine learning framework and Blender, a free and open source 3D creation suite. He also pulled off some stunning 3D models of monuments such as the Taj Mahal and the Gateway of India.
His thirst for constantly learning and improving is such that he built an Augmented Reality Space Education app all by himself. This helps children view planets and learn about them in 3D just by looking at images on the phone. He also devised a Virtual Reality Chemistry app that enabled children to perform any chemical experiment by wearing the Meta Oculus, which provides developers an out-of-the-box platform solution to turn ideas into reality.
Victor Hugo once remarked, “You can resist an invading army; you cannot resist an idea whose time has come”. If a report by McKinsey, a leading consulting firm, in 2021, is anything to go by, India’s time has truly come. McKinsey concluded that the country was a leading adopter of AI among emerging economies, from a commercial and a business standpoint. While early adopters of the technology lead the charge, a talent pool for the future in the form of young kids and adolescents is being created, which bodes well for India’s future.
This is a partnered post.
First Published: IST