Microsoft AI Challenge Empowering Developers in India

by January 28, 2019 0 comments

Often ideas do not come alive due to lack of a platform, and solutions which have the potential to create an impact do not have the right guidance and tools. Microsoft believes in providing an opportunity for these ideas to go beyond the creative thoughts in people’s minds. We are pushing the boundaries of technology and research in AI to assist humanity and augment our capabilities.

In our endeavour to reach out to the developers, Microsoft provides a number of platforms for them to innovate and create compelling AI solutions which leave a positive impact on the field and the society at large. Similarly, Microsoft AI Challenge is a yearly challenge which attempts to solve tough AI problems. Microsoft AI Challenge 2018 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 perfect 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 is one of the exciting areas of research, the challenge gave a platform for AI practitioners across the country to contribute to this area.

Developers today lack the opportunity to work on real problems using real datasets, this 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 overwhelming response of over 8000 participations and over 5300 teams participated to create solutions. Microsoft offered 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 health startup. The student prize of Rs 5 lac was won by the 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 the confidence to solve tough problems and wants to work on some problems which are India specific.

Sahaj and Laisha are still learning the ropes of AI in their college, as the third year undergraduate students, 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.

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!

Microsoft’s goal is to empower every person to achieve more and does this by providing developers with the platform, data and guidance to build powerful AI solutions that leaves an impact on the society and the industry. This challenge was a reminder of the untapped potential and passion of Indian developer communities and the power of deep learning algorithms like transformer networks and contextual embeddings to solve some tough problems.

Microsoft aims to continue investing in the field on MRC and bring the most relevant information to the users of BING in the best way. Microsoft also leverages these challenges as a platform to reach out to AI enthusiasts in tier II and III cities, and nurture the right skillset. The challenges are architected to provide an opportunity for developers to grapple with curated problems, exposure to right techniques to help resolve pressing societal issues through technology.

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