VerSe Innovation acquires AI startup Cognirel Technologies

With this acquisition, VerSe brings on board Cognirel Founder Ram Prakash to head its newly instituted AI Lab.
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Local language tech platform VerSe Innovation, the parent company of news aggregator Dailyhunt and short video platform Josh, on Tuesday announced it has acquired Cognirel Technologies, a Bengaluru-based artificial intelligence (AI) solutions provider.

With this acquisition, VerSe brings on board Cognirel Founder Ram Prakash to head its newly instituted AI Lab.

According to the official statement, the AI Lab will focus on enhancing and developing state-of-the-art models through computer vision and deep learning innovations for understanding video content in terms of their visual, audio, semantic, and socio-linguistic aspects to enable better user recommendations and experiences on existing platforms. It will also work on fundamental research that pushes the frontiers of AI and machine learning (ML) as it reshapes India’s content landscape.

"The AI Lab will aggressively pursue neuroscience-inspired RL (reinforcement learning) experiments to understand user taste profiles, using non-intrusive, implicit behavioural signals, with the goal of boosting engagement and utility for users," said the company.

Welcoming Ram and his team of scientists, VerSe Innovation Founders Virendra Gupta and Umang Bedi said: 

"We are inspired by Ram’s deep curiosity and understanding of India’s language landscape. His achievements in the field of AI and ML precede him, and he comes armed with an exceptional team and the expertise that we believe will create true impact for local language users through the reach and scale of Dailyhunt and Josh.

Umang Bedi and Virendra Gupta

"We are very proud of the momentum on VerSe and with this acquisition, we move a step further on our strategic expansion path for our family of apps focused on Bharat. With Ram at the helm of our AI and ML Lab, we also feel confident in our ambitions of taking our products into digitally emerging markets across the world, which have very distinct local characteristics.

The technology-led acquisition of Cognirel is VerSe’s first since becoming a unicorn in December 2020.

Ram, in his new role as head of the VerSe Innovation AI Lab, said: AI and ML has been my passion for two decades now. When I created Quillpad, a first-of-its-kind ML-based transliteration tool for Indian languages, I saw a unique opportunity in applying state-of-the-art advances in AI and ML to Indian languages. The best of AI/ML approaches today can’t be readily applied to Indian languages without the availability of high-quality labelled data — multiply that with the number of languages we have and the problem is exponentially compounded.

"Current approaches are data hungry and for solving Indian language NLP/NLU (natural language processing/natural language understanding) tasks, we don’t have labelled data. Our languages are inherently different from English, but linguistically well understood. We can leverage that. We will employ hybrid approaches that combine DL-based cross-lingual transfer learning techniques with classical computational linguistics models to alleviate the need for large labelled data. Dailyhunt and Josh ecosystems provide a great platform to do fundamental AI work at scale, with live raw data pouring in by the seconds. It will be exciting to build solutions to make sense of all that.”

Earlier this month, VerSe Innovation raised $100 million in Series H funding, led by global investors Qatar Investment Authority, the sovereign wealth fund of the State of Qatar; and Glade Brook Capital Partners.

In December 2020, VerSe had raised $100 million from Google, Microsoft, and AlphaWave.

Edited by Lena Saha

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