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New AI park to build robotic nurses, education systems for India's billions

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The Department of Science and Technology (DST) said that the Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Technologies Park (Artpark) set up in Bengaluru will promote technology innovations in niche areas by executing ambitious projects in various sectors by focusing on problems unique to India. These include R&D projects in areas such as healthcare, education, mobility, infrastructure, agriculture, retail and cybersecurity.

“We are preparing the ecosystem to spawn next-generation start-ups in AI and aerospace for which Karnataka is hosting an AI-focused research and innovation park to create world-leading AI companies,” said Prashanth Prakash, chairman, Vision Group for Startups, Government of Karnataka and partner at venture capital firm Accel.

At the recently held Bengaluru Tech Summit, 2020, Prakash said the facility will catalyse to accelerate solutions to large societal problems and strategic projects for the Indian ecosystem by leveraging AI in healthcare for all, next-generation transportation and financial inclusion and start agriculture supply chains. “It will also help inject 5,000 AI trade engineers into the local ecosystem,” said Prakash.

Artpark is being established by Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru with support from AI Foundry in a public-private model. With seed funding of  Rs 170 crore ($22 million) from DST, Government of India, under the National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems (NM-ICPS) it will bring about a collaborative consortium of partners from industry, academia and government bodies. This will lead to cutting edge innovations in terms of new technologies, standards, products, services and intellectual properties.

The National Mission ICPS with its 25 Hubs has a unique architecture that envisages a strong collaboration and co-ownership among the triple helix of industry, academia and government with full flexibility. 

“It also sets a template of centre-state partnership in the frontier areas of technology-- a theme which will receive focus in the soon to be released Science, Technology and Innovation Policy 2020,” said Prof.Ashutosh Sharma, DST Secretary, at the recent launch of Artpark.

Indian academia has been carrying out cutting edge technology research in various domains.

“However, we have had systemic issues in moving the results of this research from university laboratories into the outside world,” said Prof. Govindan Rangarajan, Director, IISc. “Artpark would go a long way in establishing a template for addressing this need.”

Artificial intelligence could contribute up to $15.7 trillion to the global economy in 2030, more than the current output of China and India combined, according to the research by professional services firm PwC. However, gains from this major revolution in AI might be unequally distributed to a chosen few - if the current path of AI technology evolution continues. The developing world, where more than 6 billion of the global population lives, might miss the impact of this major revolution on their standard of living and access to resources. Artpark aims to leverage AI and robotics in a mission-driven model to bring a better quality of life for these billions.

One of the projects that Artpark is working on includes Avtaar Robotics. It allows robotic nurses such as "Asha" to transport healthcare professionals' skills along with emotions across the globe. Connecting avatar robots to remote human workflows with 5G and Wifi can create jobs in the developing world. The other project is about drone skyways called ‘Akashmarg.’ Just like we have roads on the ground, there is a need for roads in the skies for autonomous operation of drones. The project is about building open standards for such drone-skyways.

Also, millions of school kids in India don't have access to good schools and labs. Project Eklavya deals with remote labs enabled by robotics that can create equal access to learning for millions of young learners in the developing world.

Artpark will develop AI and robotics facilities to support technology innovations as well as capacity building through advanced skills training of students and professionals in these areas. Some of these facilities will be key enablers for whole new sets of technologies, products and services. It will develop DataSetu - that will enable confidentiality and privacy-preserving framework to share data and run analytics spurring the data-sharing ecosystem and create a data marketplace, boosting AI applications and solutions.

One such service will be BhashaSetu - that will enable real-time Indic language translation, both of speech to speech and speech to text. This will further unlock the economic potential of the country, and enable citizens to equitably participate in the economic progress, regardless of their language.

At the Bengaluru Tech Summit, 2020, Kris Gopalakrishnan, co-founder of Infosys, and chairman, for Vision Group on IT, Government of Karnataka said that there are many new technologies emerging like AI, machine learning, Internet of Things and 5G. The other areas include cognitive cloud computing and newer programming paradigms with new languages, and quantum computing. "I believe that the next 30 years are going to be even more exciting and businesses will continue to transform by adopting these technologies,” said Gopalakrishnan.

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