Opinion

AI, AI, make me a match

JINOY JOSE P | Updated on January 23, 2018

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Spielberg meets Jane Austen?

In a way, yes. But this is about an algorithm that uses next-generation artificial intelligence to ‘matchmake’ people’s interests and offer them deeply personalised recommendations, making online search for products and services much easier. In sum, the algorithm replaces your brain, to exaggerate a bit.

Is this different from the search suggestions I’m seeing online?

Well, those are just suggestions based on your search data; what’s missing in them is a process to understand your real tastes and thought process — one of the many things the US-based startup Nara Logics wants to do with artificial intelligence.

Typically, traditional methods play with probability and user history. Nara aims to go deeper and more layered to learn about the nature of and connections between entities in the real world.

What does it do actually?

Nara, for instance, has created a brain-like platform — nara.me. Log in to the website, or its app, and you can get AI-influenced recommendations on movies, restaurants and hotels in sync with your tastes. All you have to do is to select a few options and leave the rest to the AI algorithm.

Wait, did you test this?

Yes; it worked pretty well for my movie interests. See, it’s like someone out there is doing all the thinking for me; in the right way, of course. A report in tech journal Wired says Nara is creating a matchmaking system of sorts. You give it any data set, it will track, spot and decipher entities in it — from people to locations to businesses and abstract ideas.

Then it builds a “massive knowledge graph” which shows links between these entities. According to Nathan Wilson, the chief technology officer of Nara Logics, the programme inserts users right into that knowledge graph to offer recommendations that are in tune with their tastes.

Wasn’t this possible earlier?

Not to this extent. Nara calls this neural network technology. As the name suggests, it a marriage of neuroscience, AI, computing and marketing tools. Wilson himself is a former research scientist at MIT and has a doctorate in brain and cognitive science. Previously, he studied neural networks — software that apes the human mind.

So this will be different from the usual reccos popping up online.

That’s the idea. If Nara knows a bit about a user, it can find out other things they might like; the more it knows, the better. The system can even scan public databases to make its knowledge stronger. Here, the likelihood of a consumer choosing a recommendation is much higher than in a traditional search-based system, thanks to the neural angle.

But what’s the business potential of this way of thinking?

Inserting intelligence into recommendations is something most businesses, including Google and Apple, have been trying to do for a while now, but not many have found the right answers.

Nara is one of the many upcoming AI firms trying to meet this demand. Nara has so far managed to raise $13 million in funding. It says it helps some big companies customise specific solutions.

What are they?

For one, it recently signed a global bank to use its tech for, say, managing the reward points and scanning customer choices. Nara also helps a healthcare major with doctor-patient matching based on a patient’s medical history and a doctor’s credentials.

For an aviation giant, Nara is rejigging the way its seats are placed so that some empty spots can go to passengers who have had an unhappy experience. All these, it turns out, were not possible in traditional ways of user engagements.

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