From the Space Department to Sony
Dr. Sachin Agrawal is the Senior Data Scientist at Sony R&D, Bangalore. He holds a PhD in artificial intelligence and has contributed to several patented technologies. Dr. Agrawal received the 2021 RISE Innovation Award.
A versatile person, Sachin has worked in several fields such as telecommunications, health and audio-video in various roles as an engineer, researcher and data scientist.
In an exclusive interview with Analytics India Magazine, Dr. Agrawal talked about his background in data science, his expertise in creating consumer-driven products, integrating innovation with artificial intelligence, AI and ML in commercial products, safeguarding innovative product features through patents and his thoughts. on advances in AI and innovation.
OBJECTIVE: You have worked in several fields. Didn’t you find it hard to change? What were the main challenges you faced?
sachine: Changing domain certainly brings challenges. But, it’s just as useful. For example, when I moved from mobile to healthcare, I could see the beauty of the other realm and the challenges that people were facing in that realm. Then I could use my expertise in the matter. I don’t want to limit myself to a particular area, like only audio or only video. I want to apply my skills in various industries, so that something meaningful can be done in the process.
AIM: What is your current role as a Senior Data Scientist at Sony R&D?
sachine: We work on different types of healthcare solutions with the aim of providing truly innovative solutions that can be used by ordinary people and improve their lives. The larger goal is that if someone has a disease, they should get rid of it as soon as possible or maybe get the right treatment at the right time. AI can identify the context and who the patient is and recommend the right treatment at the right time. the right department.
OBJECTIVE: Your LinkedIn title reads “Smart Innovation for Monetization”. How do you interpret this idea?
sachine: Considering the three keywords, I think smart innovation for monetization is relevant for everyone, from the official to the layman. My perception revolves around having innovations or adding creative features to a particular product or service in such a way that it benefits everyone, whether it’s a company that can benefit or from an end user whose efforts may be reduced in using the product or service, or it may simply be to save time. For example, in my case, I worked on digital devices like wearables, mobile phones, and health devices. The phones have been in the market for several years now but each time the innovation has to be incorporated in a very smart way so that it gives more benefits to the front end user. When it comes to monetization, it’s not just about making money, it’s also about saving time and effort.
OBJECTIVE: Academia is also engaged in innovation. How can they contribute to the idea of “intelligent innovation for monetization”?
Sachine: Well, I’ve worked for some college projects and I’d say some students are pretty bright and can really find a good connected business problem. But yes, academic talent must be nurtured and trained so that whatever a business or industry requires can be accommodated. The combination can create some really significant monetization opportunities for the industry as well as society at large. Industry and academia could come together to collaborate, such as a hackathon or regular sync events where the two entities with disparate potential and expertise could meet, imagine and innovate.
AIM: You started your career as an engineer. For a while, you were associated with the Space Department, then gradually moved into the field of data science. What was your course ?
Sachine: While at the Department of Space, India, I learned how to create really creative innovations or products while working on our basic concepts like physics or electronics. I also learned how to solve a problem, consumer-centric or market-centric, while developing it as a technical solution. Another key thing I learned in my future career is how to make products commercially acceptable to the end user in the market. The approach is two-pronged – whenever we look at a particular problem, how the problem can be solved using digital technologies i.e. AI and part two, in which part have I the expertise and experience and if something has been developed, the know-how to make it more efficient, more profitable, more economical or more consumer-centric. As for the learning path, I never stopped learning. Even today, I regularly consult research articles and try to integrate the lessons learned from this work into my own projects.
OBJECTIVE: Your expertise is to make a product more consumer-oriented. Could you share your thoughts on how best to achieve this?
Sachine: The clear answer is to identify the end user pain point. So I think if we know as much as we can about the pain points of the consumer, as soon as possible, that’s pretty good. When I start a project, I also try to capture these pain points as soon as possible. We must be attentive to user expectations. A user bears the cost of purchasing the product and strives to learn how to use it. Considering all these things, if we don’t provide an exact solution, I think it would be difficult to succeed.
AIM: Speaking of products, some of the products you’ve worked on have been granted patents. Why do you think certain products have been patented?
Sachine: One of the patents is about 5G phone battery saving. When I started this concept, the 5G phone had a battery problem as well as an excessive radiation problem. Since it communicates with higher frequencies, it also flows. So I came up with a concept of AI-based beamforming, radiation that allows my phone to stay connected to the base station very efficiently. It was considered a new concept. We can apply this concept to the base station antenna, which could save a lot of battery power in these phones. Another important patent work I contributed to was for ‘Bixby’, an intelligent voice assistant that recognizes selected languages and certain accents and dialects.
Bixby is different from other voice assistants like “Alexa”. In this, they process voice commands sequentially. However, in the case of Bixby, even if four people give voice commands, it will intelligently combine all of them and execute the command. The third patent revolves around an AI algorithm. It’s called the “Secure Data AI Algorithm”. Data security is a global issue. I proposed the idea that AI can not only be used to train data, but also to process data more securely.
OBJECTIVE: AI is often hailed as the next big thing. What is your position on this?
Sachine: AI is definitely going to be a helping hand for all of us. It’s like a support to allow us to take a new step on earth or to be in the universe. We continue to do traditional things on our own. It takes time and effort. But, with the help of AI, we can transfer those things to them. Humans can then work on a new concept or a new technology, or perhaps a new advancement in the company or in the construction of new AL models.
Over the next decade we would have more new things ahead of us for the next generation to progress. AI will also enrich our experience, how we interact or how we do our daily work, or how we interact with other humans or objects in the world like our homes, our natural environment or our public spaces. AI is definitely going to help us get rid of the traditional processes that we perform in our daily lives. For example, by turning on a switch, the AI will help improve the standard of living.
OBJECTIVE: At Sony, one of the areas you work in is the metaverse. What potential does AI hold in Metaverse?
Sachine: Currently, people from different industries such as entertainment and fashion are working on Metaverse. AI can add more value to this. The metaverse is like a different plane and every time a character enters the metaverse it’s also a strange world for them. AI can help make its experience more efficient. More research needs to be done. I see a lot of possibilities where AI can play a role. Considering Metaverse applications, the combination of the two could be extremely innovative.
OBJECTIVE: Innovation is now the buzzword of all industries. What message do you have for those engaged in innovation?Sachine: There is a concept called “thematic thinking”. So, for example, if there is a pot of water and I need to add “innovation” in terms of the amount of water. Now I can add water to the jar but only up to the brim. Likewise, we need to find a balance between innovation and intelligence, so that it survives well in the current ecosystem. For example, there is robotics, which can direct people or can be like a human being or a simulated soul. But, that is not the need of today’s world. So in that context, I think “topical thinking” may be the need of the hour.