AI Student Ambassador Kshitiz Rimal: Using AI to Create a Positive Impact in Nepal

Published: 03/27/2018  

Last Updated: 03/27/2018

The Intel® Student Ambassador Program was created to work collaboratively with students at innovative schools and universities doing great work in the Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence space. I had the opportunity to get to know one of our student ambassadors, Kshitiz Rimal, and learn about how he is working to use AI to make a positive impact throughout Nepal.

What got you started in Technology?

Since my childhood I have been fascinated by technology. At the age of 14, I built my first web portal which aimed to provide educational materials to my classmates. Since then I have been following technology trends as well as developing software and web apps to satisfy my curiosity. I have always been intrigued by technological advancements, especially in the field of computer science and software development. Sometimes I feel like, stumbling upon this vast field of AI is a part of my destiny, like it was bound to happen.

Tell us about your background.

I am a software developer and artificial intelligence (AI) developer and researcher from Nepal. I have several years of experience in the field of web and mobile development and recently started this journey into the world of AI. I have been focusing my work in the field of applied deep learning, especially in the development sector where AI can have huge impact to bring positive change to society.

I’ve also teamed up with like-minded individuals to start a nonprofit initiative as well, with the sole purpose of building open AI projects that can solve humanity’s greatest problems in various domains. Our nonprofit is called Artificial Intelligence for Development (AID). It’s a research organization that aims to develop open AI projects and initiatives that can have a positive impact on society. The main idea behind it is to train and develop capable AI developers in Nepal and bring them together with domain experts from various fields such as health, education, technology, finance, and agriculture to develop solutions using AI that can help to minimize problems in those fields.

Tell us about your cash recognition for visually impaired project.

In Nepal we don’t have monetary cash notes which are friendly to visually impaired individuals; they need to ask around to determine the value of the notes they are carrying. I thought this huge problem can be solved by combining AI and a smartphone since nearly everybody, including visually impaired individuals, uses one a daily basis. By merging the power of image classification using deep learning and a cross platform smartphone app, a visually challenged individual would just need to hover over the notes and the app will play the sound indicating the value of the note they are carrying. This would allow them to be more independent and confident in their daily monetary transactions.

What was your inspiration for the cash recognition app?

The idea came when I was traveling on a public bus and sitting next to a blind person. I did not know him; he was a complete stranger to me. When his bus stop came, he asked me to tell him about the value of the monetary notes he was holding. At first I answered him instantly but after few seconds as he was trying to walk towards the bus exit door I asked him if it’s problematic for him to identify the values on daily basis. He answered that he recently got into an accident and became blind and ever since it was troublesome for him to identify notes by just touching them. He also shared that it’s more common for people who are not blind at birth, but become blind later. This got me thinking and eventually I came up with this idea for cash recognition app.

What other projects are you working on now?

Mostly I have been researching and developing projects where, as a developer and researcher, I can bring a positive impact to society. With that in mind, currently I have been involved in two other projects, one is called Native Language Initiative, where I am trying to build language models using neural networks for the native languages of Nepal,  mainly, Nepali, Newari and Maithili. With this initiative I am planning to build a chat bot with cross translation features between these languages. Another project is AI for Agriculture, where I am planning to build a model which can identify diseases on cash crop plants in Nepal and provide recommendations on treatments directly to the farmers.

Tell us about the workshops you have been teaching.

With the help from Intel I have been able to conduct workshops all over Nepal. These workshops are mainly targeted towards AI enthusiasts and students of IT or Engineering. These workshops are called AI Prerequisite Workshops and are mainly focused on helping people quickly grasp the ideas behind machine learning and deep learning and use that knowledge to implement some basic projects. These are not in-depth workshops and mainly cover the background needed for machine learning, mainly math, programming, and deep learning/machine learning (DL/ML) frameworks which are very hands-on in nature. At these workshops, participants can quickly develop applications such as image classifiers, image detectors, or natural language processing (NLP) related projects using deep neural networks.

The workshops cover just enough theory so that you can conceptually understand the underlying techniques and focuses on frameworks and library implementations. After the workshop, for those interested in continuing to learn more in the field of AI, I generally point them to the course I personally have done. These includes courses offered by Coursera and I also recently checked out the hands-on courses offered through the Intel® AI Academy about machine learning and deep learning and as they are excellent courses, I have been recommending them to the participants as well. 

Tell us about a technology challenge you’ve had to overcome in a project?

I remember while starting to implement my Cash Recognition for Visually Impaired project, I did not have supported machines to train my models on. It was problematic not only for me but for majority of AI learners in Nepal. Once I had help from Intel, especially the Intel® AI DevCloud, I could easily train my models and test them. Since then It has been much easier, not only for that project but for my future research and experiments as well. 

What trends do you see happening in technology in the near future?

As a person who is deep into AI, I can say that it is going to transform everything we know about technology, not only how we use it but also how we build it. It’s going to have huge impacts on our daily lives. Apart from AI, another rising trend is in blockchain technology and quantum computing. I am happy and excited to see what the future will be with the help of these technologies.

What impact on the world do you see AI having? And how do you see yourself as part of it?

Artificial Intelligence will create a positive ripple effect throughout time well beyond our current comprehension. It will change every sector, every part of our lives. Whether its education, medicine, transportation, or technology itself, with the help of AI it will evolve rapidly. I also have a dream to use this technology for the betterment of humanity especially in the context of developing nations like Nepal. Previously, where other technology failed to make an impact, I believe AI can come in and make a great positive change especially in the rural parts of Nepal where there is lack of proper education, medical expertise, proper training to the farmers to yield large number of crops and boost agriculture. I think AI can be used in all of these areas. I want to be a part of making this happen by using AI to truly transform the society we live in for a greater good. 

What are you looking forward to doing with Intel?

The Intel® Ambassador Program has a lot of impact for me. I am able to carry on with my dream to become a better AI researcher with the help from this program. I am looking forward to developing projects and performing research in many areas of AI and deep learning with the help from this program and improve myself to be better at it every day. 

 How can Intel help students like you succeed?

To be better at something you need a supportive environment through finance, mentoring, motivation, and inspiration. I think Intel can act as this supportive environment for student success by ensuring these factors are met to support ambassador dreams.  

Outside of technology, what type of hobbies do you enjoy?

If I were not in the tech field, I would probably be an artist. I love to write stories, mainly science fiction, and I like to read comics and to also draw comics whenever I have an urge to do so. I also enjoy reading books, mainly science fiction novels, biographies, and the history of the world from cultural and evolutionary points of view.

Want to learn more? Check out our Student Developer Zone, join Intel® Developer Mesh, or learn more about becoming a Student Ambassador

Interested in more information? Contact Niven Singh

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