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article imageQ&A: Applying neuroscientific principles to AI Special

By Tim Sandle     Jul 10, 2018 in Technology
Starmind, the Zurich-based company working to apply neuroscientific principles to AI, has announced its technologies will now be available through a desktop app. Marc Vontobel, Founder and CTO of Starmind looks at what's special about this type of AI.
Psychology and neuroscience have played a key role in the history of AI and this is central to Starmind’s activities. The new desktop app consolidates and improves upon Starmind’s features, allowing ease of access without a web portal, pop-up notifications when an expert answers a question, and a more seamless UI.
Starmind facilitates collaboration throughout large companies by using AI to learn who in a given company is an expert on a given topic, then matching employees with questions/problems to the relevant experts.
To understand the basics of neuroscientific artificial intelligence and the Starmind application, Digital Journal caught up with Marc Vontobel, Founder and CTO of Starmind.
Digital Journal: How important is artificial intelligence to the modern company?
Marc Vontobel: As you’ve no doubt read about by now, there exists the potential for AI to transform not just how we work, but the nature of work itself. But while it’s easy to get wrapped up in hype and excitement, we at Starmind instead focus on what we know for sure AI can do well at this very moment. Right now, AI is not ready to replace humans when it comes to tasks that require adaptability, creativity or emotion. But AI is very good at learning and referencing large amounts of data.
In Starmind’s case, that data is the collective expertise and knowledge of a large company – Starmind can capably look at a company with thousands of people and learn what fields each employee performs best in. From there, it encourages collaboration by connecting users with questions to experts within the organization best equipped to help them. In doing so, it doesn’t attempt to replace humans, but helps them do their jobs in an exponentially more efficient way.
DJ: Which sectors are most likely to benefit?
Vontobel: With regard to our technology, the companies who stand to benefit the most are large corporations with a sizable pool of talented, skilled worker – 1,000 people or more in what we recommend. We also have exceptional clients with vivid Starmind networks with smaller user groups. Some of our clients who have reported successful use cases are in the insurance, pharmaceutical, telecom and advertising industries.
DJ: How is Starmind technology different to other platforms?
Vontobel: For one, we’re approaching the AI question from a fundamentally different perspective than most. A great deal of AI technology is being marketed as a replacement for human labor, creating a great deal of concern as to how and when these jobs will be created. Our technology is built on the human element. We’re solving a problem that no one else in the industry has really made an effort to tackle – that most knowledge in a given organization lives only in the minds of employees, rather than being written down or filed. Calling upon our roots in neurology, Starmind’s mission is to turn any organization that uses our tech into a single super-brain, creating powerful knowledge networks.
DJ: How did you develop the technology?
Vontobel: We developed the technology in-house with a very passionate and lean team of Data Scientists, AI engineers and UX specialists. But the most important contributors have always been the users: That’s where we get our inspiration and data for our decisions from.
DJ: With the neuroscience element, did you work with academia?
Vontobel: Yes, in fact Starmind’s initial versions were targeted for academic usage, before we broadened our scope to an enterprise product. But more than that, Starmind is also one of the driving forces behind The Mindfire Foundation, a non-profit foundation dedicated to guiding the development of artificial intelligence for the benefit of humankind.
The foundation’s purpose is to ensure that the next breakthrough in AI – which we believe will be human-level intelligence – serves to benefit mankind. We’re proud to say that Starmind’s platform helps facilitate the foundation’s cooperation and research.
DJ: What is special about the new desktop application?
Vontobel: The desktop app brings a lot to the Starmind experience. Instead of operating the app through a web portal, users can take whatever question they have and go straight to the app. A notification will then alert the user when their question is successful answered. With the desktop app, we can reduce email notification to zero which also contributes to the overall productivity of employees. On top of this, we’ve created a custom mobile app to bring the experience on the go.
DJ: How did you go about this phase of the development?
Vontobel: We analyzed many technology stacks and decided to go with Electron to not rebuild our application from scratch. Electron allows us to build on top of the web application, to deploy to both Windows and Mac and to keep up with the fast pace of our core development.
DJ: Can you give some examples of how the app might be used in practice?
Vontobel: Of course. We’ve found that most corporate structures aren’t able to preserve effective collaboration as they grow. A multinational research corporation might be conducting experiments in New York that could benefit from the insight of a scientist in London. A sales team in San Francisco might want to launch a product in Beijing,but does not know who to approach in the Asian office. Starmind solves these problems in a quick, effective manner.
DJ: What else are you working on?
Vontobel: We’re currently working on making Starmind more personalized for every user. Many of our customers have already collected tens of thousands of important questions and answers and especially for new joiners, this repository has a tremendous value. Through personalization, we want to offer every user individual content to best serve their needs.
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