Robots in Training Rooms – An interview with Balaji Viswanathan, the CEO of Mitra Robot

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For a long time, there have been discussions on Artificial Intelligence and Robotics entering the space of Learning & Training. Some companies are creating a buzz with with the Robots and Invento Robotics is one of them.

Learning Carnival’s Co-Founder Gireesh Sharma explores the future of Robotics with the CEO of Invento Robotics – Balaji
Viswanathan.

Balaji’s Robots Mitra (which means Friend in Hindi) is creating waves at Bank Receptions, Airport Laounges, Expos & Conferences, with the audience crazy for Selfies with Mitra.

Balaji Viswanathan
Building world class robots.

Gireesh Sharma: How is the response to Mitra in the Indian Corporates? Is it still in a good-to-have phase or are corporates realizing its importance in productivity? How many Mitras can we find in India so far? What is the status of Robots in the world and where do you find India in the journey?

Balaji Viswanathan: Things have been quite great. We were able to connect with some of the largest companies in India and sell to them. Like in any bleeding-edge tech, the corporates believe in the future of the tech and the present day value will be a small fraction of what the value will be tomorrow. You can find about 20 Mitras right now and shortly that number should go up to 100+.

We are close to a critical mass in robotics. You can see recent news of retailers like Walmart betting big on robots. India has a huge potential as key advancements in 4G expansion, Aadhar will enable us leap frog than worrying about replacing existing systems with robots.

Gireesh Sharma: Will Robots remain an enabler to the existing workforce or shall they replace some of the tasks in totality?

Balaji Viswanathan: Present day robots are more like coworkers. Excel sheets didn’t replace accounts — it just enabled millions to use accounting and spreadsheets in a way they would have never done. In the same way robots are going to enable new activities and build a market of their own.

See Mitra in Action in the following Video

Gireesh Sharma: In India, during their early stages, machines & computers were seen as a threat to employment. Is there a similar sentiment for Mitra?

Balaji Viswanathan: I remember in my childhood going to Indian bank on weekend where my father was a manager and leading a computerisation process. The bank unions were so against computerisation saying they will destroy jobs. Historically we have seen similar claims during industrial revolution and in the early 20th century. People fearing about loss of jobs is as centuries old. Every time the market surprised people with creation of whole new job categories. You cannot see tomorrow with the prism of today.

Gireesh Sharma: What are the various areas where Mitra is successfully delivering the desired result? What are the challenges that still need to be met? Are Indian languages and dialect a challenge or no more? Is the Indian audience ready to converse with Robots?

Balaji Viswanathan: Mitra is a vehicle to deliver AI. When we talk about vision, voice and predictive technologies there are no easy way to bring them to the user. Mitra enables you to make your physical environment smarter — whether it is your cinema hall or your office and retail stores — the physical world will be smarter with the robots around you recognising you, understanding the context and help you.

Gireesh Sharma: How do you see the application of robots in the education sector? If yes, when can we see the first robot in the classroom teaching a meaningful subject or are they already there? What are other areas in the education sector where robots can find a place? Like on reception, invigilation, examination hall etc.

Balaji Viswanathan: Robots can help identify student’s engagement and do mundane tasks of a teacher. They can provide very personalised teaching — especially for industrial workers who are looking to learn processes in the factory floor. In a corporate training environment the use cases are still being worked out.

Mitra Robot with Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi

Gireesh Sharma: Is it possible for a robot to act as a mentor/teacher – someone who can answer students and learner questions? Can they go to the classroom and deliver an interactive session?

Balaji Viswanathan: It is possible to do so. Especially working along with a teacher who can guide students on various projects and activities in the class, while the robots going around and helping individual students when they struggle needing clarifications.

Invento Team

Gireesh Sharma: India has an acute shortage of good trainers and teachers. Can Robots fill this gap?

Balaji Viswanathan: I hope so. It will take some time though for robots to make a big impact in education.

Gireesh Sharma: How much data can be fed in a robot and how efficiently it can converse using that data? Like how many books can Mitra memorize and answer efficiently?

Balaji Viswanathan: The robots can store many GBs within them on the edge and can access a near infinite store on the cloud.

Gireesh Sharma: What are your go-to-market strategy and sales model? Do you have to put in efforts to sell Mitra OR are you struggling with supplies?

Balaji Viswanathan: We are very active on trade shows and most of the leads come inbound. At this point we are educating customers on how their business can use robots and enabling pilots.

Contact Balaji for a Demo of Mitra

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