[Techie Tuesdays] If they can do it, why can't I? - Ronak Kumar Samantray's tryst with Artificial intelligence


When I first met Ronak at a technology conference in Bangalore, he came across as your average computer whizkid. But after several interactions and conversations with him, his story was really interesting and we deemed it worth sharing on this column. After a three year long stint at Microsoft, a whole host of papers on the subject of Artificial Intelligence, right through his undergrad, Ronak is the founder and Chief solutions architect of Hyderabad

based startup NowFloats.As inspiring as his work might be, Ronak is a geek at heart and throughout this story, you'd see how he has done things that excite him, irrespective of the outcome. Read on to know more -

There is much to learn from the user manuals 

For those who remember installing DOS on your computers, many years ago, it was accompanied by a user manual. "When I first saw a computer, in class 5, I was really fascinated by the machine. I wanted to know everything there was to it and I read through that manual from cover to cover."

This would be the first of many computer books that Ronak read through his academic life. Having understood the basics of coding, Ronak could apply it to any computer language and by the time he was in high school, he wrote a word processor application. "That really messed up my preparations for IIT. I used to bunk classes to go to the computer lab to finish this project."

Later at CET Bhubaneswar, he went on to write many technology papers and won many code contests. He fondly remembers 2 papers - "There was a predictive algorithm that I had made for file servers, which would pre-cache the files that you are most likely to access, enhancing the user experience. Another paper that I wrote was to make TV viewing better; based on the time of the day, the TV could show a relevant show and settings and so on."

Ronak shared that AI and Robotics always fascinated him and he would carry that onto his work life as well.

Microsoft - Dreams made and broken 

After having worked on many Microsoft technologies, Ronak always wanted to work at Microsoft. He says, "I used read about Microsoft and going to the Seattle tower, where Bill Gates signed his first deal, and having a cup of coffee and taking a picture was always my dream. I finally did that - I got recruited into Microsoft straight out of college."At Microsoft Ronak worked his way to recognition and developed some cool research devices. "I developed a speech glove at Microsoft, which would convert hand gestures into speech. Using Bing Translate, we made it support many languages."

This, however, was the reason why Ronak decided to quit Microsoft - "At the end of the day, Microsoft is a business and you'd be allowed to do things that are aligned to their vision. To do your own thing, you needed to start up. And that's what I did."

NowFloats, AR and Google Glasses 

We've reviewed the NowFloats app and our first impression of the app was that it lacks objectivity. Ronak agrees - "Yes, that was a mistake that we did. I

am an engineer at heart and I wanted it to do as many things as possibly. In hindsight, I don't think that was a great idea." NowFloats has now pivoted to a webspace provider to merchants and has partnered with many industry biggies for the initiative.However, Ronak hasn't given up on his older idea. He says, "I know that this location based recommendation via floats is going to pick up in the coming years. Maybe it is a little early for now.

His next bet is on augmented reality. He says, "I think AR is definitely the most innovative way of consuming data. While the mobile phone might not be the best device to leverage it, Google Glasses is definitely going to be big. I'm definitely coding for it when it comes out!"

And with that glint of engineering madness, we conclude another cup of coffee.

Connect with Raunak here.

Check out NowFloats here.


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