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From Genome Sequencing to Helping the Visually-Impaired: 7 AI Innovations Changing Lives

Remote monitoring of COVID-19 protocols to ensuring accessible navigation for the visually-impaired, all these innovations started with one big idea, that eventually with right guidance and research evolved into products that have the potential to change the world.

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This article has been sponsored by Intel.


Every successful startup or business begins with an idea that has the potential to inspire and create impact. But aside from the ‘eureka moment’, the idea alone cannot drive the impact it aims. Understandably, it takes countless days, months or even years of work to translate it into something substantial.

In addition to the big idea, the methodology involved to create a tangible product is what sets the stage for progress. And, in this situation technology becomes a prominent enabler.

Time and again through numerous startup success stories, we have been reminded of the transformational power of technology. When leveraged in the optimal way, it can bridge the gap between availability and accessibility with an efficiency like no other.

In this sphere, Intel has been facilitating this change as a pioneer in disruptive technologies. From its AI-driven technology solutions that are employed in a variety of sectors like security, education and healthcare to its mentorship program called Intel Startup Program, the company has been paving the way for tech startups and businesses who are about to change the world for the better.

Intel’s technical assistance, mentorship and high-impact collaboration with the industry, academia and government, has helped several companies/individuals realise their maximum potential and here are some of those:

AI-powered Backpack for the visually impaired:

Motivated to help a friend, Jagadish K Mahendran and his team designed a unique AI-powered voice-activated visual assistance system that could bridge the gap of accessibility and help the visually impaired perceive the world around them efficiently.

Equipped with OpenCV’s Artificial Intelligence Kit with Depth (OAK-D) and powered by Intel, this innovation comes in a backpack that helps the wearer effectively navigate and detect common accessibility challenges like, changing elevations, traffic signs, moving objects, crosswalks, etc.

The backpack comes with a host computing unit that looks like a laptop, a Luxonis OAK-D spatial AI camera and a pocket-size battery pack with a capacity to power the device for at least 8 hours. The wearer can easily navigate with the help of this interactive device by connecting it with a pair of Bluetooth-enabled earphones. Through voice commands and responses, the system continuously guides the wearer through the journey.

This innovation can potentially help more than 285 million visually-impaired individuals across the globe.

“The technology exists, we are only limited by the imagination of the developer community. It’s incredible to see a developer take Intel’s AI technology to the edge and quickly build a solution to make their friend’s life easier,” says Hema Chamraj, director, Technology Advocacy and AI4Good at Intel.

Videonetics

Dr Tinku Acharya started Videonetics in 2008, with a vision to create a homegrown Unified Video Computing platform that can revolutionise security and surveillance across the globe. Today, almost 12 years later, this company has used the same technology to aid in securing public health and safety during the pandemic.

To do so, their technologists developed SAJAG, an innovative video analytics-based Pandemic Management Suite that enables 24×7 monitoring of cities, hotspots, IT parks, office complexes, educational institutions, hospitals, etc. Operating in collaboration with several private and public stakeholders, SAJAG monitors a vast array of COVID relevant parameters and ensures the detection of anomalies with accuracy.

“From ensuring compliance with all the government lockdown guidelines to monitoring social distancing to maintaining law and order — it has played a pivotal role in helping authorities tackle the pandemic,” says Avinash Trivedi, VP – Business Development of Videonetics.

An ISV (Independent Software Vendor) partner of Intel, Videonetics has been leveraging technical insights, and computing infrastructure powered by Intel Xeon Scalable Processors and Intel Core i7 processors through the collaboration with the technology giant since its inception. SAJAG is the most recent example of this collaboration.

Qure.ai

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Much before COVID-19, Assam’s rural population was battling a deadly health condition — hypertension. More than 50% of the hypertension cases in Assam lead to hemorrhagic strokes, as compared to a 20% margin in the rest of the country.

As a solution to this problem, Mumbai-based artificial intelligence (AI) startup, Qure.ai came forward during the pandemic with an innovation that sided in efficient management and care of stroke victims. They deployed an FDA-approved, CE-certified software — qER, which can detect 12 critical abnormalities including strokes, clots and fractures. They also developed qXR, an AI-driven solution, which employs deep learning to provide comprehensive Chest X-ray screening to assist in the identification, treatment and management of asymptomatic COVID-19 symptoms in patients. With this technology in place doctors can now detect abnormalities like intracranial hemorrhage, atrophy, hydrocephalus, etc within just 1-2 minutes of a CT scan.

“The most critical impact of this technology can be felt in the reduction of the time taken for diagnosis during emergencies like a stroke or trauma even in the absence of a specialist. The AI tech accurately highlights the need for intervention in critical areas and provides physicians with all the necessary information to make crucial decisions in time,” adds Dr Pooja Rao, Qure.ai’s co-founder.

Working towards empowering the healthcare sector, the founders share that they were able to amass this impact with Intel’s help. With its cloud servers based on Intel processors and its x86 technology, they add that Qure.ai was able to successfully install its AI gateway on even lower-end basic computers because of Intel’s technology.

English Helper

Boston-based social entrepreneur and cognitive scientist of Indian origin, Venkat Srinivasan along with Sanjay Gupta started English Helper, a tech-based learning solution for students in government schools. In 2013, they launched an initiative called RightToRead that introduced a multisensory reading and comprehension software that helps read out English textbooks using Artificial Intelligence.

“Even before we start to speak, our brain begins to associate and relate everyday objects and situations with words, through sound and sight. It is through this visual and aural exposure that language learning develops into the spoken and written form — making the multisensory approach the ideal one,” says Vineet Mehra, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer (K12) of English Helper.

Available in three forms—the ReadToMe School Edition, ReadToMe Virtual Classroom and ReadToMe Student Edition softwares—this innovation has helped bridge the gap in education, even during the pandemic. From a few hundred schools, today they have expanded to thousands of schools impacting millions of students. Utilising key capabilities of AWS instances powered by Intel Xeon Processors, they have managed to deploy the RightToRead program seamlessly across 28,000 schools in urban and rural India.

Vacus Tech

Started in 2017, Vacus Tech developed a unique technology that ensures a comprehensive and accurate monitoring in public places like offices, educational institutions and hospitals. Specialising in indoor positioning and tracking technology for safety purposes, Vacus Tech has leveraged its technology to ensure accurate monitoring of social distancing and following of COVID-19 protocols while indoors.
“Prior to the pandemic, our focus was to create smart buildings and workplaces that ensured safety and security of the employees working inside. But when the pandemic struck, a lot of automobile companies reached out to help track factory workers with respect to the following of COVID protocols,” says co-founder Pratik Magar, who spent two years to build this technology along with co-founder Venugopal.
Installed in employee ID cards, this innovation has not only encouraged employees to follow COVID guidelines at all times, but also simplified contact tracing in case of infection.

“We participated in this startup accelerator programme before COVID. The platform helped us finalise our architecture and scale up the company. At the time we were able to produce only 3,000 to 4,000 tags and to scale beyond 10,000 tags we needed an efficient gateway that could handle such a big load. That’s when Intel helped us further with the AAEON UP Squared developer board. One of the fastest, this also comes with several security options that allow us to encrypt the data received,” adds Pratik. With Intel’s help, they managed to source the gateway UP Squared board in record time, despite challenges posed by the lockdown.

Netra.AI

Representational

India has the largest population of diabetic patients and a projection suggests it will hit almost 98 million people by 2030. An outcome of this is a condition called diabetic retinopathy, which is a leading cause of blindness and loss of vision in adults. Although the damage done due to diabetic retinopathy is serious and irreversible, early diagnosis and treatment can prevent loss of vision.
Realising the potential need for a reliable solution, Sankara Eye Foundation, Leben Care and Intel technologies came together to develop a powerful innovative device called NETRA.AI that uses deep learning technology to efficiently diagnose retinal conditions, in less than a minute.
NETRA.AI is built on Amazon EC2 C5 and M5 instances and powered by Intel Xeon Scalable processor. It also leverages Intel’s AI, DL Boost and Vector Neural Network to ensure accurate, accessible and affordable AI detection of retinal illnesses, to a large population, even with limited infrastructure, resources or an overburdened healthcare system. With the help of this technical backing, NETRA.AI has screened 3,293 patients and identified 812 at-risk patients so far.

Haystack Analytics

In order to understand virus transmission and tackle the COVID-19 pandemic better, a healthcare startup called HaystackAnalytics devised a unique genome sequencing dashboard that was incubated by Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay and deployed for Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in June 2021.
Incubated under the Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE) at IIT-B, Haystack created an analytical tool that aids public health officials and epidemiologists, better understand data that is retrieved from genome sequencing of ribonucleic acid (RNA) samples collected from Covid-19 patients.

Divided in four prominent steps—sample processing, creation of a DNA library, sequencing the data from the genomes and analysing data—the process of genome sequencing is usually long and tedious.

Generally, it takes between 72 hours to 15 days to get the complete results of genome sequencing. Powered by Intel Xeon processors, Haystack is now able to complete the entire process and get results in less than 36 hours, with the help of assistance provided at the Intel Startup Program.

“With Intel’s assistance we were able to reduce the turnaround time considerably. Initially when we started our analysis time would take around an hour but when we finished the programme, we were able to bring it down to 15 minutes. Essentially, through this technology, we are reducing a patient’s diagnostic journey and the cost. For instance, to identify a condition, instead of having to do multiple tests and therapies, the patient is now able to find the most likely cause and solution in a matter of just a few hours,” says co-founder Anirvan Chatterjee.

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