Real world applications of Artificial Intelligence

For many years – almost 20 since I did my first course in AI, and later, when I read papers about machine learning, classifiers and deep learning during my Ph.D. I have always wondered: will there ever be a true application of artificial intelligence for a mass market product ?

I think that with apps like Siri, Cortona, Watson, google voice we saw one generation of software based voice recognition systems with search based intelligence. There are telebots used for telemarketing too by companies mostly to sell you security systems. There are health tool kits, alerted, etc but they are more like responsive to signals from devices than real intelligence.

However, now with the new generation of communication tools such as Slack there are ways to extend traditional software packages through ‚Äúbots‚ÄĚ. These bots should be able to replace human interfaces with largely database applications for mundane tasks. Think chatting with a customer service representative for your payroll or talking to your accountant to file taxes or talking to your pharmacist for scheduling a refilling your prescription.

In these cases the payroll application, the accountant and the prescription refill are software packages all extended via ‚Äúbots‚ÄĚ
The next generation of software tools and packages for all purposes be it for business or for productivity will by default be extended to provide ‚Äúbots‚ÄĚ

Definitely look at the following link:

Also look at the video in the link above.

This is exciting!!!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOWNIoTjLbM?feature=oembed&enablejsapi=1&origin=http://safe.txmblr.com&wmode=opaque&w=500&h=281]

YouTube Red : trying to be Netflix++  & Pandora all in ONE for a price thats lower than both.

    Alphabet ( Google ),  will unveil Youtube Red, an online service that will charge users $9.99 for viewing videos without advertisements.  Brilliant move!

    Not only are they streaming videos without ads, but they are also  streaming music as part of the package.  With the sign up of major studios and television channels onto youtube Red, it give you the whole bouquet of viewing content. 

Youtube also has the worlds largest real time MMORPG  clippings.

      Youtube Red also is starting to produce original content  and shows, which over a time will show traction just as Netflix has shown with its original content like House of Cards or Orange is the New Black.  An analysis by Seeking Alpha columnist Alex Piti and by Hank in the video above, shows that for every 400 hours of video watched the average  revenue earned is about $1 for the content producer. However, for the subscription  based service, the average revenue earned could be as high as $4.

There are also some sticky clauses in this move to Youtube Red – one that affects content producers ¬†who do not accept its new terms and conditions though. However, at the end of the day the subscriber gets a greater deal, a much better chance to view premium ¬†video, audio and gaming content, all without ‚Äúads‚ÄĚ.¬†

Prediction Markets atop BlockChain

This week was a revelation of sorts. I got introduced to the Tech-scene at downtown Miami, via a group of super entrepreneurs, working on a host of technologies surrounding Blockchain.  I also had this opportunity to listen to this  wonderful Q&A with Paul Szortc (@Truthcoin) who  created the specifications and is responsible for the implementation of Truthcoin. 

¬†Truthcoin does one thing – very well- it is intended as ¬†a software protocol to create distributed/decentralized prediction markets . In other words Truthcoin is intended ¬†to send information (‚ÄĚtruth or supposed truth from a large number of participants‚ÄĚ) over Blockchain – in itself a powerful idea. What this essentially does is remove a large controller or a large player who directs who can trade, who can direct trades and what can effectively be traded.

Decentralized Prediction markets, if it takes off can really be a big game changer in every possible application– be it in health studies, stock markets, new technology adoption, etc. This whitepaper by Paul nails it in a larger context by providing very specific examples too…. (http://www.truthcoin.info/papers/2_PM_Types.pdf)

Crowdfunding Platforms for Micro-credit

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3g9WIfznPJs?feature=oembed&enablejsapi=1&origin=https://safe.txmblr.com&wmode=opaque&w=540&h=405]

Financial exclusion is one of the key challenges facing humanity. Two thirds of humanity (not just in India) but globally do not have access to credit from financial institutions. This continues to impinge development in nations, and, societies. One of the earliest possible ideas proposed in this area was that of micro-finance i.e. disburse small amounts of money to the needy. The concept of chit-funds, where small investors invest money in the hopes of lending it to a few needy, was a rage for a long time. Unregulated chit-funds led to more financial innovation in the form of micro-credit institutions, such as the Grameen Bank, whose founder won the Nobel Prize for Peace (and not economics :-). The other side of microcredit institutions which charge a hefty 26% Р100%  APR still pose a risk to this innovation. However, more recently in India crowdfunding micro-entrepreneurs through platforms like Rangde.org are providing an alternate option. These platforms are similar to kickstarter, indiegogo and gofundme and are converting social goodwill (capital) into loans, with their ability to maintain a low cost of credit and high repayment.. With as little as Rs. 100/- or $2 you are able to effect a social change, while in the process earning an interest on your investment.

RePosting a favorite blogpost – A podcast about podcasts.

Once in about 8 weeks, I thought it would be great to repost other blog posts¬† from authors that I regularly read. These posts¬†are¬† contemporaneous and spark my¬†imagination in a particular area of technology products and entrepreneurship. This week I came across this awesome post by a16z i.e. Andreesen Horowitz.¬†titled ¬†‚Äúpodcast about podcasts‚ÄĚ ..The link for the blogpost is here

Long ago – about 10 years ago – ¬†me and my partnering product manager were faced with this question by the then CEO – Can we use podcasts effectively in some way to engage with our massive audience and customers? How do we do that..¬† We never did anything about that —at that time..

This audio podcast answers some of those – and more – about the changing landscape¬†in the podcasting world…

Here’s the full podcast..https://soundcloud.com/a16z/podcast-about-podcasts

Product Glitches

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hehbSG3h3wU?feature=oembed&enablejsapi=1&origin=https://safe.txmblr.com&wmode=opaque&w=540&h=304]

This week I tried to upgrade my wife‚Äôs old phone to a new one, now that there was an awesome deal at Costco. Within the first 60 seconds of playing around with the phone, we just hit the first Glitch – now nicknamed ‚ÄúNPenGate‚ÄĚ…

¬† Ofcourse, these folks are not the only ones. Their largest competitor Apple also faced a ‚ÄúBendGate‚ÄĚ

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSMUGGu7l-4?feature=oembed&enablejsapi=1&origin=https://safe.txmblr.com&wmode=opaque&w=540&h=304]

Highly successful  global products have massive design flaws, on their flagship products. These  products which are bought by several million customers, and, are sold by all major retailers globally.

Makes me wonder how large brands and their product(s)/market(s) remain unaffected after a flawed flagship product is¬†released onto the market. Made me realize that markets (and customers) treat such massive problems as a ‚Äúflaw‚ÄĚ… and mostly firms release a subsequent version quickly (within 6 months) without the ‚Äúflaw‚ÄĚ……. However, if these firms were smaller (say an unestablished startup or even a young firm) such an error would have sounded like a deathknell.

With the massive Free-cash troves these firms have acquired over years, it should¬†be possible to make the¬†best possible product through the best possible Usability testing, Black Box testing and¬†Design testing…

Also, surprising that while hardware – or physical device glitches are easy to view and detect, there are also a few software ones (like the one on iOS9 which eats away all the bandwidth without informing the customer).

Similarly, makes me wonder how design testing, usability testing, product testing and go to market is conducted.

Makes me wonder if these defects are released intentionally into markets¬†with Flagship products – to test out customer usability enmasse!!! Are customers live testing a brand new¬†product line after paying for it…?

The Adventure of Moving (with Technology)…

I haven’t posted anything to this blog in the last three months.  The reasons are that these months were absolutely thrilling.  I completed my Ph.D. dissertation on Spatial Arbitrage at Georgia Tech, defended it in front of my esteemed committee.  Next I moved with my family to Miami to my new Academic job at FIU Business School.  (Yay!!!) .

This needed 100% focus. I hope to resume my blog post every weekend NOW.The move from Atlanta to Miami was complex Рbut having moved for the very first time in my life Рwith family (i.e. myself, wife and little one) it was bound to have challenges. 

The key highlights and learnings were as follows:

1) I used technology (the internet and mobile apps)- to the extent possible to ship and track everything.

2) I figured out that in a market of multiple channels and competition in each channel, the customer wins ALWAYS, provided he chooses right set of options.

3)¬†Any service wins or loses based on one single factor – Customer Delight…..

4) AirBNB is the brave¬†new world…for travel/tourism…

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The usual mover would have done this –¬†rented a mobile truck¬†such as¬†one from¬†U-Haul¬†or from¬† Penske, put all the stuff in it and driven¬†it across the¬†600+ miles along the scenic route on I-75S. I had no energy do that since the¬†previous two months were spent in one of my life‚Äôs most dedicated activity where I put in 100% of my effort and time.¬†Moving using a truck would have costed me the least…but would have been¬†very uncomfortable¬†to my little daughter – who would¬†have had to endure being tied into a baby seat at the backseat of a truck for about¬†12 hours.

The next best option was to use the Packers and Movers services offered by many companies. There are so many of them.They provide a  whole range of services from packing and moving, to  shipping using Container Boxes. The container boxes option at one point  seemed convenient. Leave everything inside the container of a particular size and it will be picked up during their next enroute trip. The prices vary based on the size of container, the estimated time of delivery, and storage time.

The third and last option which occurred to me while I was packing my stuff into packing boxes was this: Why not use the regular postal service or a shipper like UPS/FedEx/USPS. 

Contrary to popular belief, that shipping in pieces is expensive and big stuff like beds cannot be shipped, I realized that this option – for the web savvy¬†person (me :-))¬†with a printer¬†really works!!!! Its super convenient, frugal and predictable.All you need to do is to¬†measure the size of your packages and weigh¬†it (approximately).¬†You can even pay for¬†the shipping label¬†using a credit card online after setting up an account…

Then you can print multiple labels Рupto 25 of them in 1 go..Tape your boxes with packing tape, stick the labels on top  and ship them.  The beauty was this : you can ask UPS to come to your house and pick up the 25 packages for a very nominal cost.I paid about 40$ for picking up all this stuff I had. The UPS ground service is competitively priced, and is cheaper, more predictable and efficient compared to any other service out there. It is very simple and easy to print and ship.

With UPS you can¬† track the exact location of your packages (or bulk shipping at one go). The packages¬†literally follow you…. I was delighted that after a weekend stay at an AirBNB house, when, we just moved into our new house, the UPS packages were delivered to our doorstep just as it was shipped 3 days ago.. In addition, I shipped my car using car-shipping services which costed me about 0.25$ per mile of shipping the entire car. In addition, I sent a couple of large suitcases inside my car too….making my shipping worth the trip.

. Ofcourse, there were a few minor glitches, like 1 missing package and a few broken stuff-……. However, my discovery of AirBNB, Car Shipping services and Uber for transportation¬†made me a lot more confident about the power of the internet. The internet and e-commerce bought me access to services that I would not have been able to obtain.¬†

With my choice, I shipped everything at 1/10th the cost of using Packers and Moves and ¼th the cost of using a Container. Added to this, my stuff arrived along with me to Miami.

More on move….in a future post.