Emerging Tech Development & Consulting: Artificial Intelligence. Advanced Analytics. Machine Learning. Big Data. Cloud
What the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns have shown is how ill-prepared the higher education system was for the challenge. Although 97% of universities and colleges have eventually switched to online or blended learning, their journeys weren’t smooth — 63% of students say the quality of instructions has worsened.
Now schools across the globe are rushing their digital transformation initiatives adopting educational technology solutions to make learning, and remote learning in particular, more efficient and personalized, possibly without spending a fortune on digitizing their operations.
But how do higher education institutions navigate educational innovations? And how can artificial intelligence, cloud computing, intelligent automation, and teleconferencing help schools achieve higher academic performance and drive revenue? Let’s dive in.
So, how do education and technology join up?
Technology can transform every aspect of how students, professors, and alumni interact and how campuses are running, easing the shift toward cheaper, more accessible, and more engaging education.
The key education technology use cases that make this shift happen are:
- Student lifecycle management
- Student engagement and motivation
- Smart campus and smart dorm solutions
- Assistive learning technology
- Tech-assisted mental health interventions
Student lifecycle management (SLM)
With student lifecycle management software, universities and colleges can develop a data-driven approach to education, automate routine processes, and let students access educational resources anywhere, anytime. One of the biggest trends in educational technology, SLM software optimizes the entire student lifecycle, from prospecting and enrollment through creating a nurturing learning environment to graduation and alumni support.
Prospecting and enrollment
Doing their research about a university, applicants usually visit its website, go through the schools’ social media, weigh out alumni’s impressions, and only then submit an application. SLM solutions optimize the interaction between the potential students and the school at each of these touchpoints.
Data analytics and AI bring in robust insights to universities’ recruitment campaigns. The techs allow monitoring how effective a school’s marketing efforts are in real time to attract the best students.
Leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning in education allows processing myriads of social media data to uncover what students, alumni, and parents really think about your school. Competitive intelligence helps to compare a school’s academic performance and its attractiveness for potential applicants against other higher education institutions.
To speed up or even automate student enrollment, universities are widely adopting CRM software. CRMs foster application management at every stage — from application receipt and confirmation through analyzing if it meets the set requirements to routing the application for approval and claiming the final verdict.
Information and communication technologies in education also ignite the transition to more affordable subscription-based online learning (think: Netflix-style smart education platforms). Students would soon be able to browse through a school’s available programs, subscribe to the one they like, and connect a credit card for automatic monthly payments. A pioneer in subscription-based learning, Boise State University enrolls 3,500 fully online students a year, and almost every learner fully completes their credit commitment. Online students also pay 30% less in tuition fees.
Billing and accounting operations
Tech-savvy students of today expect their tuition and other payments to be handled smoothly and quickly, which calls for colleges to adopt billing and accounting technology for education. Such solutions usually feature an accounting portal for the administration and a mobile app for students. The students can use the app to conveniently pay tuition fees or make on-campus purchases, while the accounting portal allows centralized and swift payment processing.
The University of Wyoming, for example, used to send out their bills via the postal service with the help of a contractor who manually processed, printed, and mailed out the bills. It took approximately a week before the bills reached the students, which was slow and also rather costly. Today, however, the university uses e-billing software to automatically process thousands of bills, saving about $45,000 a year.
With AI solutions for education, universities can tailor the learning process to a student’s academic achievements, background, interests, and inclinations. To empower academic success, AI analyzes tests, assignments, classroom participation notes, and other data to build a unique student profile and identify what makes the student engage and what causes struggles.
Based on the profile, AI provides tips on how educational materials can be tweaked. For example, AI can tell whether a particular student prefers listening, reading, or watching a video to take in information.
As a result, students start benefiting from a personalized learning environment; instructors use reports on students’ academic achievements to further improve the way they teach; curriculum and content designers get useful insight into content usage; college administrations tap in useful statistics on the school’s overall performance and the bottlenecks that may halt it.
Key innovative technologies that make it easier for students to engage in campus experiences are chatbots and videoconferencing.
Chatbots provide immediate responses to student queries and solve many extra tasks, from helping navigate the campus to reminding about upcoming exams to sending out grades reports, and more. Georgia State University, for instance, has implemented a chatbot to help newly admitted students prepare for enrollment. Namely, the chatbot gives answers to the questions about financial aid and housing and helps freshmen register for classes. During the first month after the implementation, the chatbot exchanged about 50,000 texts, and less than 1% of students had to be routed to the university staff for further clarifications.
Video conferencing has become the key enabler of distant and blended learning, but the value this technology drives in education will endure after the pandemic as well. Conferencing apps may help professors make the learning process more engaging, enjoyable, and convenient. They could, for instance, invite subject-matter experts to hold video lectures or consult students via online office hours. Yale University, for example, uses videoconferencing to teach rare languages like Yoruba and Zulu with the students and the instructor being miles away from each other.
Putting educational innovations to use, universities can create next-gen campus infrastructures that meet the demand of today’s tech-savvy students. Smart campuses embrace technology applications that make up a connected infrastructure and create intuitive experiences for students, professors, prospects, and college administration.
Campus safety and security
Higher education institutions may leverage AI-powered CCTV cameras, biometric technology, and facial recognition to keep unauthorized people off-campus so that a student can get in a dorm only if they allow their fingerprints or facial features to be scanned by AI.
The same technology can be used to automatically track class attendance, identify absentees, or get real-time feedback about which parts of a class make students engage and which fail to arouse interest.
But as good as improved safety and automated tracking may sound, AI-powered surveillance and facial recognition cause fierce resistance among students and evoke debate about the moral implications of modern tech.
One way of alleviating the ethical concerns while improving security is recognizing violent behaviors and potential threats rather than facial features. Several startups like ZeroEyes and Athena claim to rely on such an approach in their safety and security solutions.
Smart dorm and recreation
To provide better services and drive cost savings, housing, dining, and recreation facilities can be digitized, too. For instance, relying on the data fetched from motion tracking sensors, smart lighting systems, and connected thermostats can automatically turn off the lights and lower room temperature when no one is around. The University of Arizona has already adopted smart college and campus technologies, but they have gone beyond standard use cases and also deployed a network of plumbing sensors to monitor water lines usage and prevent leaks.
When it comes to dining, techs drive student experience here as well. With technology integrated into dining services, students can conveniently look through the available menu options via a self-service kiosk or a mobile app, view nutrition information, and place an order.
Many higher education institutions also set up technology to provide for quality recreation. ASU has, too, implemented connected sensors to monitor weather, humidity, temperature, and noise levels inside the university’s sports arena.
Student engagement and motivation
To liven up the learning process, enhance student engagement, and maintain the sense of community despite the lockdown, colleges and universities have started leveraging smart learning environments, virtual tutors, and gamification.
Smart learning environments
By bringing whiteboards, 360-degree video tools, and augmented and virtual reality to education, colleges can create immersive learning experiences. Interactive whiteboards, for instance, allow more flexibility in content delivery, support file sharing, and provide simple access to the internet, engaging learners via multiple models of interaction.
AR and VR simulations help students grasp complex concepts, reconstruct historical events, engage in practical training, and more. San Diego State University, for instance, has already turned the power of VR in education to their benefit. The smart school uses VR headsets to teach astronomy and make students experience ideas that cannot be explained verbally via visual means.
And here’s an interesting use case of augmented reality in education. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has built an immersion lab with a 360-degree projection system that “transports” the school’s Mandarin learners to Chinese city streetscapes. Conversing with AI-powered avatars that recognize learners’ speech, gestures, and facial expressions, the students master Mandarin twice as fast as their fellows taught in conventional classrooms.
Virtual tutors are intelligent, AI-powered avatars one can converse with just like with a human. The behavior of a virtual tutor can be tailored to any task, from enhancing medical students training to facilitate foreign language practice. The avatars can even be trained to mimic a person with trauma to, say, act as a patient for psychology students.
Among the universities that have already adopted virtual teachers and tutors at the University of Buffalo’s Graduate School of Education. The school uses an avatar named Kevin to enhance the learning experience for students majoring in teaching. Now the students perfect their tutoring and instructing skills talking to a virtual counterpart and already notice an increase in their professional confidence.
Gamified virtual campus solutions
Having switched to videoconferencing to enable distance learning, universities and colleges are now embracing gamification features and augmented reality apps for education to create virtual campuses.
Virtual campuses are interactive environments where students can meet, study, and chat. Just like in video games, a student uses their laptops’ keyboard and a microphone to walk around the campus and talk with other students or professors presented by digital avatars.
Stanford’s Graduate School of Business is one of the pioneers in adopting virtual campus technology. The environment they’ve built allows students to navigate the digital copy of the school’s campus, “teleport” from one room to the next and attend online classes with an instructor’s avatar on the virtual stage. In turn, the instructors can put students into private groups, hand out lecture notes, and more.
Assistive learning technology
In the US, every classroom includes students with special needs, and assistive learning innovations in education can make a difference to how they learn.
Students struggling with literacy or those who want to boost their writing skills, for instance, can benefit from AI-powered spelling and grammar checks, word prediction, and automated text formatting. Apart from that, modern writing assistance tools, like Hemingway Editor, Ghotit, or Ginger, can evaluate the clarity and readability of texts and even provide tailored practice sessions based on the mistakes a student made in the past.
At the University of Michigan, for example, professors and students already use an AI-powered tool that analyzes students’ papers to let students take their writing skills a step further and help professors streamline grading.
Speech-to-text software can assist students with special needs in communicating with their teachers and peers. Office 365 applications, for instance, feature an AI-based add-in that converts speech into text as a student speaks into a microphone. Another helpful tool is Microsoft’s Immersive Reader. The tool was designed specifically for students with dyslexia and dysgraphia and allows them to have any text read out loud, and even broken into syllables.
Tech for students with hearing and vision disabilities
Many apps and browsers today come with built-in screen magnifiers, high contrast mode, dictation, and audiovisual assistants that can read the contents of a web page out loud. For the students who need Braille support, colleges and universities can leverage Braille keyboards to improve the learning experience even further.
And students with hearing difficulties can benefit from videoconferencing tools with built-in captioning, sound-field systems, as well as FM systems — wireless devices that transmit sounds directly to a hearing aid and help students communicate even in a noisy environment.
Technology-assisted mental health interventions
In the US, one in three college students reports having some kind of mental health disorder. In addition to offering individual and group therapy, universities can promote the use of tech like mobile apps and chatbots to expand their mental health care to the students who are reluctant to turn to in-person services.
Mental health apps relying on cognitive behavioral therapy, for instance, have proven effective in alleviating anxiety, depression, and stress levels. Such apps can also analyze data from a mobile phone’s built-in sensors or wearables to reveal changes in students’ behavior patterns and provide tips on how to prevent worsening of the revealed mental health conditions.
Mobile apps and chatbots help freshmen adjust to college, too. Offering personalized exercises and daily activities, the chatbots help build up resilience and increase well-being. The University of Michigan, for example, uses a similar bot that allows students to take a survey and get tailored resources to boost their mental health.
Overcoming top challenges of implementing educational technology
Innovative in every possible field but paradoxically conservative when it comes to redesigning their own structures, higher education institutions have to battle many challenges on their way to digital transformation. The ones that need special attention are:
Overcoming the digital divide
Although many students have successfully switched to online learning and already enjoy the improvements brought by technology, there are millions who are deprived of basic facilities like network connectivity and cannot access educational resources online. As the problem is multi-faceted, it can hardly be resolved by higher education institutions alone. Rather, the solution should be a product of collaborative effort. Governments, nonprofit organizations, educational institutes, and education technology companies should team up to provide access to the internet for low-income families, for instance, via non-commercial community networks and community technology centers.
Dedicating to continuous improvement
Innovation for its own sake makes little difference. To uncover the full potential of technology in education, colleges and universities should adopt tech wisely and, once they have built their IT infrastructures, continuously test and improve them. And to further improve the overall learning experience, enhance operations, and uncover new revenue streams, it is worth dedicating effort to research and development and tapping into new business models that are enabled by technology.
After transitioning to distant learning and amplifying their IT infrastructures with new services, more higher education institutions fall victim to cyberattacks. The University of California, for instance, had to pay $1 million in ransom after their internal system was breached and the University of Utah lost over $400,000. To prevent cyberattacks, higher education institutions need to build security in their IT environments by design, regularly assess security risks and develop mitigation procedures, design security guidelines, and encourage professors, students, and university administration to closely follow them.
Settling moral implications.
As far as next-gen technologies like AI, smart monitoring, or intelligent automation are concerned, the ethical implications of their adoption should be carefully thought out. As both students and professors may object to digital transformation (the former are often afraid that their role will diminish as AI infiltrates education; the latter disapprove of being monitored and expect technology to surpass their freedoms). To alleviate ethical issues, colleges and universities must use technology responsibly and focus on explainability — that is make sure to inform all parties about how digital solutions would impact the learning process, how they make decisions (if AI is in use), and which data they need to do so.
Technologies are shaping the future of higher education, and many higher education institutions have already tapped into digital transformation — whether to make education more accessible and fun, improve daily operations, or drive cost savings. But no matter the goals, colleges, and universities should not underestimate the importance of thorough planning. It is with a thought-out digital transformation strategy and the support of an experienced tech partner that higher education institutions get the most from investing in tech.
Previously published at https://itrexgroup.com/blog/technology-innovations-in-higher-education/
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Deep Learning vs Machine Learning: How an Emerging Field Influences Traditional Computer Programming
When two different concepts are greatly intertwined, it can be difficult to separate them as distinct academic topics. That might explain why it’s so difficult to separate deep learning from machine learning as a whole. Considering the current push for both automation as well as instant gratification, a great deal of renewed focus has been heaped on the topic.
Everything from automated manufacturing worfklows to personalized digital medicine could potentially grow to rely on deep learning technology. Defining the exact aspects of this technical discipline that will revolutionize these industries is, however, admittedly much more difficult. Perhaps it’s best to consider deep learning in the context of a greater movement in computer science.
Defining Deep Learning as a Subset of Machine Learning
Machine learning and deep learning are essentially two sides of the same coin. Deep learning techniques are a specific discipline that belong to a much larger field that includes a large variety of trained artificially intelligent agents that can predict the correct response in an equally wide array of situations. What makes deep learning independent of all of these other techniques, however, is the fact that it focuses almost exclusively on teaching agents to accomplish a specific goal by learning the best possible action in a number of virtual environments.
Traditional machine learning algorithms usually teach artificial nodes how to respond to stimuli by rote memorization. This is somewhat similar to human teaching techniques that consist of simple repetition, and therefore might be thought of the computerized equivalent of a student running through times tables until they can recite them. While this is effective in a way, artificially intelligent agents educated in such a manner may not be able to respond to any stimulus outside of the realm of their original design specifications.
That’s why deep learning specialists have developed alternative algorithms that are considered to be somewhat superior to this method, though they are admittedly far more hardware intensive in many ways. Subrountines used by deep learning agents may be based around generative adversarial networks, convolutional neural node structures or a practical form of restricted Boltzmann machine. These stand in sharp contrast to the binary trees and linked lists used by conventional machine learning firmware as well as a majority of modern file systems.
Self-organizing maps have also widely been in deep learning, though their applications in other AI research fields have typically been much less promising. When it comes to defining the deep learning vs machine learning debate, however, it’s highly likely that technicians will be looking more for practical applications than for theoretical academic discussion in the coming months. Suffice it to say that machine learning encompasses everything from the simplest AI to the most sophisticated predictive algorithms while deep learning constitutes a more selective subset of these techniques.
Practical Applications of Deep Learning Technology
Depending on how a particular program is authored, deep learning techniques could be deployed along supervised or semi-supervised neural networks. Theoretically, it’d also be possible to do so via a completely unsupervised node layout, and it’s this technique that has quickly become the most promising. Unsupervised networks may be useful for medical image analysis, since this application often presents unique pieces of graphical information to a computer program that have to be tested against known inputs.
Traditional binary tree or blockchain-based learning systems have struggled to identify the same patterns in dramatically different scenarios, because the information remains hidden in a structure that would have otherwise been designed to present data effectively. It’s essentially a natural form of steganography, and it has confounded computer algorithms in the healthcare industry. However, this new type of unsupervised learning node could virtually educate itself on how to match these patterns even in a data structure that isn’t organized along the normal lines that a computer would expect it to be.
Others have proposed implementing semi-supervised artificially intelligent marketing agents that could eliminate much of the concern over ethics regarding existing deal-closing software. Instead of trying to reach as large a customer base as possible, these tools would calculate the odds of any given individual needing a product at a given time. In order to do so, it would need certain types of information provided by the organization that it works on behalf of, but it would eventually be able to predict all further actions on its own.
While some companies are currently relying on tools that utilize traditional machine learning technology to achieve the same goals, these are often wrought with privacy and ethical concerns. The advent of deep structured learning algorithms have enabled software engineers to come up with new systems that don’t suffer from these drawbacks.
Developing a Private Automated Learning Environment
Conventional machine learning programs often run into serious privacy concerns because of the fact that they need a huge amount of input in order to draw any usable conclusions. Deep learning image recognition software works by processing a smaller subset of inputs, thus ensuring that it doesn’t need as much information to do its job. This is of particular importance for those who are concerned about the possibility of consumer data leaks.
Considering new regulatory stances on many of these issues, it’s also quickly become something that’s become important from a compliance standpoint as well. As toxicology labs begin using bioactivity-focused deep structured learning packages, it’s likely that regulators will express additional concerns in regards to the amount of information needed to perform any given task with this kind of sensitive data. Computer scientists have had to scale back what some have called a veritable fire hose of bytes that tell more of a story than most would be comfortable with.
In a way, these developments hearken back to an earlier time when it was believed that each process in a system should only have the amount of privileges necessary to complete its job. As machine learning engineers embrace this paradigm, it’s highly likely that future developments will be considerably more secure simply because they don’t require the massive amount of data mining necessary to power today’s existing operations.
Image Credit: toptal.io
Extra Crunch roundup: Tonal EC-1, Deliveroo’s rocky IPO, is Substack really worth $650M?
For this morning’s column, Alex Wilhelm looked back on the last few months, “a busy season for technology exits” that followed a hot Q4 2020.
We’re seeing signs of an IPO market that may be cooling, but even so, “there are sufficient SPACs to take the entire recent Y Combinator class public,” he notes.
Once we factor in private equity firms with pockets full of money, it’s evident that late-stage companies have three solid choices for leveling up.
Seeking more insight into these liquidity options, Alex interviewed:
- DigitalOcean CEO Yancey Spruill, whose company went public via IPO;
- Latch CFO Garth Mitchell, who discussed his startup’s merger with real estate SPAC $TSIA;
- Brian Cruver, founder and CEO of AlertMedia, which recently sold to a private equity firm.
After recapping their deals, each executive explains how their company determined which flashing red “EXIT” sign to follow. As Alex observed, “choosing which option is best from a buffet’s worth of possibilities is an interesting task.”
Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch! Have a great weekend.
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
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The Tonal EC-1
On Tuesday, we published a four-part series on Tonal, a home fitness startup that has raised $200 million since it launched in 2018. The company’s patented hardware combines digital weights, coaching and AI in a wall-mounted system that sells for $2,995.
By any measure, it is poised for success — sales increased 800% between December 2019 and 2020, and by the end of this year, the company will have 60 retail locations. On Wednesday, Tonal reported a $250 million Series E that valued the company at $1.6 billion.
Our deep dive examines Tonal’s origins, product development timeline, its go-to-market strategy and other aspects that combined to spark investor interest and customer delight.
We call this format the “EC-1,” since these stories are as comprehensive and illuminating as the S-1 forms startups must file with the SEC before going public.
Here’s how the Tonal EC-1 breaks down:
We have more EC-1s in the works about other late-stage startups that are doing big things well and making news in the process.
What to make of Deliveroo’s rough IPO debut
Why did Deliveroo struggle when it began to trade? Is it suffering from cultural dissonance between its high-growth model and more conservative European investors?
Let’s peek at the numbers and find out.
Kaltura puts debut on hold. Is the tech IPO window closing?
The Exchange doubts many folks expected the IPO climate to get so chilly without warning. But we could be in for a Q2 pause in the formerly scorching climate for tech debuts.
Is Substack really worth $650M?
A $65 million Series B is remarkable, even by 2021 standards. But the fact that a16z is pouring more capital into the alt-media space is not a surprise.
Substack is a place where publications have bled some well-known talent, shifting the center of gravity in media. Let’s take a look at Substack’s historical growth.
RPA market surges as investors, vendors capitalize on pandemic-driven tech shift
Robotic process automation came to the fore during the pandemic as companies took steps to digitally transform. When employees couldn’t be in the same office together, it became crucial to cobble together more automated workflows that required fewer people in the loop.
RPA has enabled executives to provide a level of automation that essentially buys them time to update systems to more modern approaches while reducing the large number of mundane manual tasks that are part of every industry’s workflow.
E-commerce roll-ups are the next wave of disruption in consumer packaged goods
This year is all about the roll-ups, the aggregation of smaller companies into larger firms, creating a potentially compelling path for equity value. The interest in creating value through e-commerce brands is particularly striking.
Just a year ago, digitally native brands had fallen out of favor with venture capitalists after so many failed to create venture-scale returns. So what’s the roll-up hype about?
Hack takes: A CISO and a hacker detail how they’d respond to the Exchange breach
The cyber world has entered a new era in which attacks are becoming more frequent and happening on a larger scale than ever before. Massive hacks affecting thousands of high-level American companies and agencies have dominated the news recently. Chief among these are the December SolarWinds/FireEye breach and the more recent Microsoft Exchange server breach.
Everyone wants to know: If you’ve been hit with the Exchange breach, what should you do?
5 machine learning essentials nontechnical leaders need to understand
Machine learning has become the foundation of business and growth acceleration because of the incredible pace of change and development in this space.
But for engineering and team leaders without an ML background, this can also feel overwhelming and intimidating.
Here are best practices and must-know components broken down into five practical and easily applicable lessons.
Embedded procurement will make every company its own marketplace
Embedded procurement is the natural evolution of embedded fintech.
In this next wave, businesses will buy things they need through vertical B2B apps, rather than through sales reps, distributors or an individual merchant’s website.
Knowing when your startup should go all-in on business development
There’s a persistent fallacy swirling around that any startup growing pain or scaling problem can be solved with business development.
That’s frankly not true.
Dear Sophie: What should I know about prenups and getting a green card through marriage?
I’m a founder of a startup on an E-2 investor visa and just got engaged! My soon-to-be spouse will sponsor me for a green card.
Are there any minimum salary requirements for her to sponsor me? Is there anything I should keep in mind before starting the green card process?
— Betrothed in Belmont
Startups must curb bureaucracy to ensure agile data governance
Many organizations perceive data management as being akin to data governance, where responsibilities are centered around establishing controls and audit procedures, and things are viewed from a defensive lens.
That defensiveness is admittedly justified, particularly given the potential financial and reputational damages caused by data mismanagement and leakage.
Nonetheless, there’s an element of myopia here, and being excessively cautious can prevent organizations from realizing the benefits of data-driven collaboration, particularly when it comes to software and product development.
Bring CISOs into the C-suite to bake cybersecurity into company culture
Cyber strategy and company strategy are inextricably linked. Consequently, chief information security officers in the C-Suite will be just as common and influential as CFOs in maximizing shareholder value.
How is edtech spending its extra capital?
Edtech unicorns have boatloads of cash to spend following the capital boost to the sector in 2020. As a result, edtech M&A activity has continued to swell.
The idea of a well-capitalized startup buying competitors to complement its core business is nothing new, but exits in this sector are notable because the money used to buy startups can be seen as an effect of the pandemic’s impact on remote education.
But in the past week, the consolidation environment made a clear statement: Pandemic-proven startups are scooping up talent — and fast.
Tech in Mexico: A confluence of Latin America, the US and Asia
Knowledge transfer is not the only trend flowing in the U.S.-Asia-LatAm nexus. Competition is afoot as well.
Because of similar market conditions, Asian tech giants are directly expanding into Mexico and other LatAm countries.
How we improved net retention by 30+ points in 2 quarters
There’s certainly no shortage of SaaS performance metrics leaders focus on, but NRR (net revenue retention) is without question the most underrated metric out there.
NRR is simply total revenue minus any revenue churn plus any revenue expansion from upgrades, cross-sells or upsells. The greater the NRR, the quicker companies can scale.
5 mistakes creators make building new games on Roblox
Even the most experienced and talented game designers from the mobile F2P business usually fail to understand what features matter to Robloxians.
For those just starting their journey in Roblox game development, these are the most common mistakes gaming professionals make on Roblox.
CEO Manish Chandra, investor Navin Chaddha explain why Poshmark’s Series A deck sings
“Lead with love, and the money comes.” It’s one of the cornerstone values at Poshmark. On the latest episode of Extra Crunch Live, Chandra and Chaddha sat down with us and walked us through their original Series A pitch deck.
Will the pandemic spur a smart rebirth for cities?
Cities are bustling hubs where people live, work and play. When the pandemic hit, some people fled major metropolitan markets for smaller towns — raising questions about the future validity of cities.
But those who predicted that COVID-19 would destroy major urban communities might want to stop shorting the resilience of these municipalities and start going long on what the post-pandemic future looks like.
The NFT craze will be a boon for lawyers
There’s plenty of uncertainty surrounding copyright issues, fraud and adult content, and legal implications are the crux of the NFT trend.
Whether a court would protect the receipt-holder’s ownership over a given file depends on a variety of factors. All of these concerns mean artists may need to lawyer up.
Viewing Cazoo’s proposed SPAC debut through Carvana’s windshield
It’s a reasonable question: Why would anyone pay that much for Cazoo today if Carvana is more profitable and whatnot? Well, growth. That’s the argument anyway.
The AI Trends Reshaping Health Care
Click to learn more about author Ben Lorica.
Applications of AI in health care present a number of challenges and considerations that differ substantially from other industries. Despite this, it has also been one of the leaders in putting AI to work, taking advantage of the cutting-edge technology to improve care. The numbers speak for themselves: The global AI in health care market size is expected to grow from $4.9 billion in 2020 to $45.2 billion by 2026. Some major factors driving this growth are the sheer volume of health care data and growing complexities of datasets, the need to reduce mounting health care costs, and evolving patient needs.
Deep learning, for example, has made considerable inroads into the clinical environment over the last few years. Computer vision, in particular, has proven its value in medical imaging to assist in screening and diagnosis. Natural language processing (NLP) has provided significant value in addressing both contractual and regulatory concerns with text mining and data sharing. Increasing adoption of AI technology by pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to expedite initiatives like vaccine and drug development, as seen in the wake of COVID-19, only exemplifies AI’s massive potential.
We’re already seeing amazing strides in health care AI, but it’s still the early days, and to truly unlock its value, there’s a lot of work to be done in understanding the challenges, tools, and intended users shaping the industry. New research from John Snow Labs and Gradient Flow, 2021 AI in Healthcare Survey Report, sheds light on just this: where we are, where we’re going, and how to get there. The global survey explores the important considerations for health care organizations in varying stages of AI adoption, geographies, and technical prowess to provide an extensive look into the state of AI in health care today.
One of the most significant findings is around which technologies are top of mind when it comes to AI implementation. When asked what technologies they plan to have in place by the end of 2021, almost half of respondents cited data integration. About one-third cited natural language processing (NLP) and business intelligence (BI) among the technologies they are currently using or plan to use by the end of the year. Half of those considered technical leaders are using – or soon will be using – technologies for data integration, NLP, business intelligence, and data warehousing. This makes sense, considering these tools have the power to help make sense of huge amounts of data, while also keeping regulatory and responsible AI practices in mind.
When asked about intended users for AI tools and technologies, over half of respondents identified clinicians among their target users. This indicates that AI is being used by people tasked with delivering health care services – not just technologists and data scientists, as in years past. That number climbs even higher when evaluating mature organizations, or those that have had AI models in production for more than two years. Interestingly, nearly 60% of respondents from mature organizations also indicated that patients are also users of their AI technologies. With the advent of chatbots and telehealth, it will be interesting to see how AI proliferates for both patients and providers over the next few years.
In considering software for building AI solutions, open-source software (53%) had a slight edge over public cloud providers (42%). Looking ahead one to two years, respondents indicated openness to also using both commercial software and commercial SaaS. Open-source software gives users a level of autonomy over their data that cloud providers can’t, so it’s not a big surprise that a highly regulated industry like health care would be wary of data sharing. Similarly, the majority of companies with experience deploying AI models to production choose to validate models using their own data and monitoring tools, rather than evaluation from third parties or software vendors. While earlier-stage companies are more receptive to exploring third-party partners, more mature organizations are tending to take a more conservative approach.
Generally, attitudes remained the same when asked about key criteria used to evaluate AI solutions, software libraries or SaaS solutions, and consulting companies to work with.Although the answers varied slightly for each category,technical leaders considered no data sharing with software vendors or consulting companies, the ability to train their own models, and state-of-the art accuracy as top priorities. Health care-specific models and expertise in health care data engineering, integration, and compliance topped the list when asked about solutions and potential partners. Privacy, accuracy, and health care experience are the forces driving AI adoption. It’s clear that AI is poised for even more growth, as data continues to grow and technology and security measures improve. Health care, which can sometimes be seen as a laggard for quick adoption, is taking to AI and already seeing its significant impact. While its approach, the top tools and technologies, and applications of AI may differ from other industries, it will be exciting to see what’s in store for next year’s survey results.
Turns out humans are leading AI systems astray because we can’t agree on labeling
Top datasets used to train AI models and benchmark how the technology has progressed over time are riddled with labeling errors, a study shows.
Data is a vital resource in teaching machines how to complete specific tasks, whether that’s identifying different species of plants or automatically generating captions. Most neural networks are spoon-fed lots and lots of annotated samples before they can learn common patterns in data.
But these labels aren’t always correct; training machines using error-prone datasets can decrease their performance or accuracy. In the aforementioned study, led by MIT, analysts combed through ten popular datasets that have been cited more than 100,000 times in academic papers and found that on average 3.4 per cent of the samples are wrongly labelled.
The datasets they looked at range from photographs in ImageNet, to sounds in AudioSet, reviews scraped from Amazon, to sketches in QuickDraw. Examples of some of the mistakes compiled by the researchers show that in some cases, it’s a clear blunder, such as a drawing of a light bulb tagged as a crocodile, in others, however, it’s not always obvious. Should a picture of a bucket of baseballs be labeled as ‘baseballs’ or ‘bucket’?
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Annotating each sample is laborious work. This work is often outsourced work to services like Amazon Mechanical Turk, where workers are paid the square root of sod all to sift through the data piece by piece, labeling images and audio to feed into AI systems. This process amplifies biases and errors, as Vice documented here.
Workers are pressured to agree with the status quo if they want to get paid: if a lot of them label a bucket of baseballs as a ‘bucket’, and you decide it’s ‘baseballs’, you may not be paid at all if the platform figures you’re wrong or deliberately trying to mess up the labeling. That means workers will choose the most popular label to avoid looking like they’ve made a mistake. It’s in their interest to stick to the narrative and avoid sticking out like a sore thumb. That means errors, or worse, racial biases and suchlike, snowball in these datasets.
The error rates vary across the datasets. In ImageNet, the most popular dataset used to train models for object recognition, the rate creeps up to six per cent. Considering it contains about 15 million photos, that means hundreds of thousands of labels are wrong. Some classes of images are more affected than others, for example, ‘chameleon’ is often mistaken for ‘green lizard’ and vice versa.
There are other knock-on effects: neural nets may learn to incorrectly associate features within data with certain labels. If, say, many images of the sea seem to contain boats and they keep getting tagged as ‘sea’, a machine might get confused and be more likely to incorrectly recognize boats as seas.
Problems don’t just arise when trying to compare the performance of models using these noisy datasets. The risks are higher if these systems are deployed in the real world, Curtis Northcutt, co-lead author of the stud and a PhD student at MIT, and also cofounder and CTO of ChipBrain, a machine-learning hardware startup, explained to The Register.
“Imagine a self-driving car that uses an AI model to make steering decisions at intersections,” he said. “What would happen if a self-driving car is trained on a dataset with frequent label errors that mislabel a three-way intersection as a four-way intersection? The answer: it might learn to drive off the road when it encounters three-way intersections.
What would happen if a self-driving car is trained on a dataset with frequent label errors that mislabel a three-way intersection as a four-way intersection?
“Maybe one of your AI self-driving models is actually more robust to training noise, so that it doesn’t drive off the road as much. You’ll never know this if your test set is too noisy because your test set labels won’t match reality. This means you can’t properly gauge which of your auto-pilot AI models drives best – at least not until you deploy the car out in the real-world, where it might drive off the road.”
When the team working on the study trained some convolutional neural networks on portions of ImageNet that have been cleared of errors, their performance improved. The boffins believe that developers should think twice about training large models on datasets that have high error rates, and advise them to sort through the samples first. Cleanlab, the software the team developed and used to identify incorrect and inconsistent labels, can be found on GitHub.
“Cleanlab is an open-source python package for machine learning with noisy labels,” said Northcutt. “Cleanlab works by implementing all of the theory and algorithms in the sub-field of machine learning called confident learning, invented at MIT. I built cleanlab to allow other researchers to use confident learning – usually with just a few lines of code – but more importantly, to advance the progress of science in machine learning with noisy labels and to provide a framework for new researchers to get started easily.”
And be aware that if a dataset’s labels are particularly shoddy, training large complex neural networks may not always be so advantageous. Larger models tend to overfit to data more than smaller ones.
“Sometimes using smaller models will work for very noisy datasets. However, instead of always defaulting to using smaller models for very noisy datasets, I think the main takeaway is that machine learning engineers should clean and correct their test sets before they benchmark their models,” Northcutt concluded. ®
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