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Microsoft AI Challenge Empowering Developers In India

Microsoft AI challenge was a reminder of the untapped potential and passion of Indian developer communities and power of deep learning algorithms like transformer networks and contextual embeddings to solve some tough problems.

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Sundar Srinivasan, General Manager - AI & Research, Microsoft India in the center with AI Challenge award winners.

Microsoft conducted ‘Microsoft AI Challenge’ which attempts to solve tough AI problems. The challenge was aimed to provide solutions in the field of Machine Reading Comprehension (MRC).

As search engines have now evolved to respond to speech inputs, users today expect the prefect answer to their queries. MRC is the AI research area where AI is used to select the passage which contains the answer from multiple passages of text to a particular question. This field requires quite a bit of progress and being one of the exciting areas of research, the challenge gave a platform for AI practitioners across the country to contribute to this area.

Sundar Srinivasan, General Manager - AI & Research, Microsoft India said,“Microsoft AI Challenge is a platform to help developers build innovative solutions that make a difference to users' lives. This year we saw participation from over 8000 participants, who had to develop solutions in the field of Machine Reading Comprehension (MRC). These challenges have been designed in such a way that it helps the developers get an exposure to right techniques to solve real world problems using AI technology”.

He added, “Through this platform, Microsoft has been able to tap the potential of developers living in not just in big urban cities but also tier-2 and tier-3 towns and provide them with data and proper guidance to create AI solutions that can impact society and industry at large”.

The AI challenge allowed participants to develop solutions for MRC using datasets and a chance to venture into the field of Natural Language Processing. The challenge received an over whelming response of over 8000 participations and over 5300 teams participated to create solutions.

Microsoft offered a prize money of Rs 16 lakhs to the winners of the AI Challenge 2018. The grand prize of Rs. 10 lacs was won by the team of Sasank Chilamkurthy and Swetha Tanamal who are AI scientists working in a health start up. The student prize of Rs 5 lac was won by team of Sahaj Agrawal and Laisha Wadhwa, they are currently studying in IIIT Sri City, Andhra Pradesh. The 1 lac prize was won by Aman Khandelia. 

The AI challenge was all about opening new opportunities to the developers. Aman had never worked in the field of NLP or Deep Learning before the challenge and, today he believes he has confidence to solve tough problems and wants to work on some problems which are India specific.

Winners of the challenge expressed their gratitude, Runners-up Winner Aman Khandelia said, “It was a thrilling and enriching experience, from the start to end. I started out as a novice in NLP, but in the process of participating I learned a lot on the go. I not only learned NLP, but also how to process and utilize information quickly and efficiently, especially for Deep Learning based applications. I look forward to apply this meta-learning to other domains and develop applications of my interest”.

Sahaj and Laisha, as third year under graduate students who are still learning the ropes of AI in their college, the challenge put them on a map with 1000s of developers across the country and they overcame limitations of computing power through their dedication and passion to solve problems.

“The Microsoft AI challenge gave us a platform to learn, innovate, create AI solutions for real-world problems and venture into the world of Natural language processing. It was a great opportunity to compete with developers and data scientists across the country. It has, in fact, opened new opportunities for us in the field of NLP and Deep Learning and motivated us to learn more and create more innovative solutions”, said Laisha Wadhwa.

Sasank and Swetha were already well versed with Deep Learning algorithms, and combined ideas like “Learning to Rank” (which is already a concept well used in Bing) with Deep Learning algorithms to innovate in the space, they now look forward to applying these concepts in newer areas like Computer Vision.

Swetha Tanamala said, “Definitely it was a great learning experience. I currently work on deep learning approaches for images as a part of my full time job. The Microsoft challenge opened the door for me to understand the new research problems like Machine reading comprehension and dive deep into it. Now, I am able to apply the deep learning methods I learnt during the challange to my day job”.

Microsoft AI challenge was a reminder of the untapped potential and passion of Indian developer communities and power of deep learning algorithms like transformer networks and contextual embeddings to solve some tough problems.



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