Uniphore’s CEO says software built around speech will change the face of technology
: It was in 2007 that Umesh Sachdev struck upon the idea that took over his life.
“If voice could be used to communicate with machines, we would solve massive problems. That’s when we started building speech recognition and artificial intelligence based software products, which have today become Uniphore,” said Mr. Sachdev, Uniphore’s co-founder and CEO who recently made it to Time Magazine ’s 2016 list of 10 millennials changing the world.
After Mr. Sachdev and his co-founder Ravi Saraogi completed Computer Science engineering, they got onto the entrepreneurial stride and conceptualised the speech recognition software.
The idea was to reach millions of users who were not part of digital revolution due to illiteracy or language constraints.
“We wanted to use technology which allows people to interact with devices such as mobile phones in their vernacular languages and connect to the internet to access information and carry out transactions. That was the motivation to develop vernacular language speech recognition and voice biometrics,” said Mr. Sachdev, who started the venture at the IIT Research Park in Chennai.
Citing an example, the 30-year-old Sachdev said, “Imagine a housewife in a village who wishes to recharge her cable TV (DTH). Today, she is able to do so by dialling a number and saying her command in one of 14 Indian languages and the transaction is fulfilled.
In near future, these applications will be smarter. It will remind her that her daughter’s school fee is due and that she should also transfer it along with the TV bill.”
Having pioneered Indian and Asian vernacular languages, Uniphore is now investing in ‘natural language’ and ‘artificial intelligence’ capabilities.
“The impact of this, we believe, would empower people in various ways in the coming years,” Mr. Sachdev said.
The startup firm has added over 70 global languages and expanded to South East Asia, the Middle-East and the US.
Till date, the startup has received investment from a series of investors, including IDG Ventures India; India Angel Network; Ray Stata, the co-founder and Chairman of the Board of Analog Devices; and YourNest Angel Fund.
It also received seed investment from IIT Madras’ Rural Technology and Business Incubator; Villgro Innovations Foundation; and the National Research Development Corporation.
Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan has also invested an undisclosed amount in the firm.
Having pioneered Indian and Asian vernacular languages, Uniphore is investing in ‘natural language’
source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Chennai / by Sangeetha Kandavel / Chennai – June 27th, 2016
The sound of the long, rectangular brass dice reverberates on the wooden table. “Six and two. You can cut him…and play vettaatam,” instructs 83-year-old Namagiri Lakshmi to her grandson Vijay. Welcome to Dayakattai, a traditional Tamil dice game.
In a race-to-the-finish game (a predecessor to Ludo) you have four rectangles filled with squares that your pieces need to traverse. You start with six pieces in your ‘home’ territory, and you have to pass all the coins through the opponents’ territories and come back home. You can bring the pieces onto the board only if you roll a dayam and you need to ‘cut’ any opponent at least once. The bonus — you get an extra roll of the dice if you get a one, five, six or 12.
In Pagade, which is similar to Dayakattai, you can ‘cut’ the opponent’s pieces and send them back to the start box. However, there are eight safe zones where other players cannot cut you.
Experts like Lakshmi remember playing since they were little. “It used to be a little different back then — if you rolled a 7 or 9, it was a no-play. And we used to sing folk songs as we played,” she recalls. And she can do the mental math and tell you, based on what you’ve rolled, which square your piece will end up in. “Five, two, six, three — this piece will land there,” she says.
In fact, the association with the game runs so deep in the family that just the night before her grandson Vijay was born, his mother Usha played Dayakattai! “We played late into the night and the next morning Vijay was born in the hospital,” she remembers.
Explaining the concept of dokka vettu, she says, “It’s a more recent and violent addition to the game. It’s when your piece gets cut just one square before reaching home. It triggered so many fights between the kids!” Vijay and Usha recall a famous punch-line from the game when one player cut another player in revenge: “Vettuku vettu. Rathathuku ratham (cut for a cut, blood for blood).
The squares used to be drawn using maakkal (chalk-like substance) or even sandal. The coins can be anything from peanuts to cashew nuts. “Kids liked taking edible coins, because when you came back home, you could eat them! Sometimes, they would simply eat one in the middle of the game and say they had already crossed the finish line! It’s tough to keep track because there are six coins a player!” laughs Lakshmi.
With the spirit of game coursing through this family’s veins, looks like it will be quite some time before one can forget the coins and the cuts!
source: http://www.newindianexpress.com / The New Indian Express / Home> Cities> Chennai / by Varun B. Krishnan / June 25th, 2016
June 24th, 2016Green Initiatives/ Environment, Historical Links, Pre-Independence, Records, All, Science & Technologies, World Opinion
A book follows the lives and achievements of two engineering geniuses who changed the face of irrigation in India in the 19th century.
There is a thin but bright skein that runs through, and indeed often gets obscured by, the darker history of colonial rule in India. This thread represents the work of the small but extraordinary group of colonial innovators who pushed the boundaries in a diverse range of fields — from engineering to archaeology, from botany to triangulation and mapping.
A recent book by Alan Robertson, Epic Engineering: Great Canals and Barrages of Victorian India follows the lives and achievements of Arthur Cotton (1803-1899) and Proby Cautley (1802-1871), two engineering geniuses who changed the face of irrigation in India in the 19th century. Cautley designed and built the 700-mile Ganges Canal, and Cotton harnessed for irrigation the flow of two of the great river deltas of South India – the Cauvery and Godavari.
Though contemporaries in India, and equally qualified, the two men could not have been more different in their approach to engineering problems. The book deals in some depth with the bitter public battle in England when they returned after their India postings, over the efficacy of their respective engineering designs in India.
According to Robertson, Cautley was recognised and honoured by his Victorian contemporaries, although it is Cotton who is remembered over a century and a half later in the Indian mind — celebrated as he is in writing, popular lore and public statuary in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. In the 1930’s Cotton built the Upper and Lower Anicut to regulate and divert for irrigation the flow of water in the Cauvery and Coleroon (Kollidam) rivers. He then turned his attention to the Godavari delta, where in the 1930s the destruction of the weaving industry was exacerbated by a famine that together resulted in the death of one in four persons. The Godavari’s flow in monsoon was three times greater than the Nile in flood, Robertson writes, therefore greater the challenge. The many ingenious solutions Cotton devised to practical problems as they cropped up during the construction of the four-mile long Godavari anicut provides a flavour of the unconventional genius and the times.
In the same decades Cautely was making progress, though with some embarrassing reversals, on the Ganges canal. Later, in the adjudication of the dispute between Cautely and Cotton — who argued that the location of the headworks of the canal was wrong — a government committee sided with Cautely. However, “within a few years Cotton’s main criticism was quietly acted upon…” Robertson writes.
Historical archives and private collections in Britain still hold many stories on India including those that are already known but are waiting to be enriched with new information. Interestingly, the author of this enriched biography, Alan Robertson, was a nuclear physicist with an abiding interest in history. This led him to a post-retirement MA degree at King’s College on the mid-19th century indigo industry in India and on to the fascinating lives of the two Victorian water engineers.
Unfortunately, Robertson died before his book was published. Finding no publishers ready to accept the manuscript, it was eventually published privately by Catherine Hamilton, Robertson’s sister. Jeremy Berkoff, an irrigation expert who worked for many years with the World Bank edited and completed the manuscript.
Epic Engineering: Great Canals and Barrages of Victorian India
Alan Robertson / Beechwood Melrose Publishing, 2013, 254 pages
source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Books / by Parvathi Menon / London – June 14th, 2016
- The move of the govt to create a Greater Chennai Corpn has virtually revived the ancient province of Tondaimandalam.
- A study of the region by Colonel Colin Mackenzie says Tondaimandalam was 1st inhabited by Kurumbas, a fierce tribe .
- Epigraphs of the region also reveal the existence of a sound administrative system
The move of the state government to create a Greater Chennai Corporation, bringing into its fold several areas of Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur, has virtually revived the ancient province of Tondaimandalam that is believed to have existed in the last Sangam period. The Chennai region was a part of Tondaimandalam.
With the first references to the region going back to tribal Kurumbars and the reign of King Karikala Chola in the 1st century AD, Tondaimandalam had been under the rule of the Kurumbars, Cholas, Kalabhars, Pallavas, Pandyas and the Vijayanagara dynasties for over 2,000 years. The region during the said period came under two divisions — Aruvanadu and Aruvavadatalainadu.
Greco-Egyptian writer Ptolemy observed that the region was named Aruvarnoi and that the territory roughly extended between South Pennar and North Pennar, which together came to be called as Tondaimandalam or Tondainadu, after the conquest by Tondaiman Ilam Tiraiyan, who took over the Chola empire from Karikala Chola and Nedumudikilli.
The Mackenzie Manuscript, a study of the region by Colonel Colin Mackenzie, the first surveyor general of India, says Tondaimandalam was first inhabited by Kurumbas, a fierce tribe — early references to whom are found in the Ashokan edicts — until their defeat by Ilan Tiraiyan.
The tribe divided the region into 24 districts and built several forts. Historian Prof K V Raman says, “Places like Mylapore, Triplicane, Egmore, Pallavaram, Velacheri, Thiruvanmiyur and Nungambakkam among many others formed a vital part of the ancient Tondaimandalam.”
“Even though names of places like Nungambakkam, Ayanavaram, Vyasarpadi, Villivakkam, Ambattur etc appear to be modern names of recent origin, they find mention in inscriptions dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries AD, which in turn stresses their antiquity,” he adds. Inscriptions belonging to the Pallavas, Cholas, Rashtrakutas, Pandyas, Cheras and the Vijayanagara kings that have been found in places like Pallavaram, Triplicane, Thiruvanmiyur, Thirunirmalai, Padi etc. bear witness to the political changes through which the region passed.
Those from the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries AD make it evident that the area on which Chennai city and its surroundings are situated were included partly in Puzhal Kottam and partly in Puliyur Kottam.
“The region has been rightly called ‘the classic ground of early Paleolithic culture in south India as the first Paleolithic relic was discovered at Pallavaram, leading to the discovery of many more Paleoliths in other places. Megalithic sites and tools, dating back to the Iron Age were also discovered here,” says Raman.
Epigraphs of the region also reveal the existence of a sound administrative system — both central and local — including active functioning of village assemblies (sabhas) in Manali, Adambakkam and Tiruvottriyur. The system was functional during the Pallava rule in the 9th century AD.
Later under the rule of Chola and Vijayanagar kings, the function of village assemblies was extended to many other places of the region. The region had an equally significant contribution towards the fields of literature and learning. Thiruvalluvar, the author of Thirukkural, is associated with Mylapore while Sekkizhar, author of ‘Periya Puranam’ is said to have hailed from Kunrattur.
Some of the heralders of the Vaishnava wing of the Bhakti movement were either born in this region or were closely associated with it. Pey Alvar, one of the earliest Alvars, came from Mylapore while Thirumazhisai Alvar was born in Thirumazhisai near Poonamallee. Thirukacchhi Nambi, a close associate of Sri Ramanuja, the famous philosopher of the Vishishtadvaita school, came from Poonamalli.
Epigraphical, archaeological and literary sources reveal that Buddhism and Jainism once had a hold in this region. Monuments of the Chennai region reveal the contributions of the Pallava, Chola and Vijayanagar dynasties. The Pallavas built the famous cave temples in Mamallapuram, Mamandur and Narasapalayam villages near Kancheepuram and at Singaperumal Koil.
Dr S Krishnaswami Aiyangar in ‘Madras Tercentenary Commemmoration Volume 1939’ also talks about Mylapore dating back to the beginning of the Christian era, making it over 2,000 years old.
Historian R Sathianathaier says, “Tondaimandalam was the heart of the Pallava empire, the helmet of the Chola empire, the scene of a triangular contest among the Pandyas, the nucleus of Saluva Narasimha’s power and the grave of the Vijayanagar empire.”
(The author is the director of Chennai 2000 Plus Trust)
source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News Home> City> Chennai / TNN / June 24th, 2016
June 22nd, 2016Arts, Culture & Entertainment, Business & Economy, Historical Links, Pre-Independence, Records, All
From hand-crafting musical instruments to providing a platform for people to learn music… here’s the story of Musée Musical
There’s a reason why the doors to the entrance of Musée Musical are tall enough for elephants to walk through. In fact, they served the very purpose: the building was used to shelter the elephants of Parthasarathy Temple. Today, it brims with guitars, violins and veenas that gleam from glass cabinets that line the walls. Situated in a cosy corner off Anna Salai, the music ‘salon’ was started by a Portuguese music-lover called Misquith in 1842. “He repaired and serviced pianos and organs back then,” recalls Kishore Das, the CEO of the company.
“Called Misquith & Co., it had 16 branches, including in places such as Lahore and the Nilgiris. But he sold them all, owing to ill health,” he adds. “Prudhomme, a Frenchman bought the Madras branch — he was the one who gave it the current name. His friend Amy Rozario, a pianist and music teacher, was the director; my grandfather Giridhar Das worked as the financial director.”
Towards the early 1940s, when the Independence Movement was at its peak, Amy decided to leave the country. That’s when Giridhar Das bought over the company. For the first time since its founding, Musée Musical had an Indian at the helm.
Today, seated in an office surrounded by hundreds of musical instruments, Kishore narrates the story of this “institution” that not only sold and taught music, but also made its own instruments. Musée Musical started to hand-craft its own instruments out of necessity. This was because the Government imposed a 330 per cent duty on importing musical instruments after Independence. The trend continued until 1996. During the intermittent years, the company was a haven for those who wanted to practise Western music. They rented out instruments at a nominal rate and provided a platform for those who wanted to learn music.
“Music is common to everyone. It cannot be divided by borders,” feels Kishore. “We’ve seen musicians suffer without access to instruments and wanted to make them available.” Today, they continue to make their own instruments, although on a small scale. “We’ve been an examination centre for the Trinity College, London, since 1901,” he adds.
The aisles of the store have seen ordinary men and women walk in as starry-eyed lovers of music and walk out as geniuses after years of training: think Ilaiyaraaja and A.R. Rahman. Kishore remembers seeing a young Ilaiyaraaja come to their store on foot all the way from Mylapore. “He went through a lot of hardship to learn music,” he says. “For me, the best thing about being in this field is that over the years, we’ve shown people that music can also be a career,” says Kishore. “We’ve been working with the Government and educational institutions towards that.”
Years of hosting musicians and musical instruments has changed something in the quaint building. It clings to us as we walk out through the elephant doors. You can’t exactly name the feeling — it’s a mix of an inexplicable calm and awe.
source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Features> Metroplus> Society / by Akila Kannadasan / Chennai – June 21st, 2016
Edward Bulkley was one of the first registered medical practioners in India
Students and faculty of the Madras Medical College (MMC) have of late been worried over the condition of the tomb of Edward Bulkley, one of the first registered doctors in the country, in Ordnance Line near the institution. They had recently visited the place to create an archive of the institution but returned disappointed after seeing the gross neglect the tomb has been subjected to.
“They were digging at the site to construct a transformer,” said Isaac Christian Moses, dean, MMC, who with some students and faculty visited the monument two days ago. “We went again on Monday and found crowbar marks on it. The engineer told us that they are planning to set up the transformer. The workers might have attempted to move the tomb,” he said.
On August 28, 1693, Dr. Edward Bulkley performed the first medico-legal autopsy in modern India, said V. Sriram, historian and heritage activist.
“James Wheeler, a member-in-council, died after being treated by another doctor Browne. The latter later discovered, much to his shock, that his servant had made the medicine in a vessel used for arsenic. Dr. Bulkley conducted the post-mortem and the two were tried,” he said. He also issued the first injury and medical certificate which cited illness as a cause of inability to work, he added.
In 1714, Dr. Bulkley died and was buried in the garden of his house that was later converted into a quarters for defence personnel. The tomb stands isolated inside Ordnance Line, opposite MMC, at the intersection of Poonamallee High Road and Evening Bazaar Road.
“His contribution is of immense importance to the medical world. We want his memory to be preserved,” said N.G. Suganth a final-year postgraduate student.
While officials from the Department of Archaeology were unavailable for comment, officials from the Ministry of Defence said that they will ensure that the tomb is not damaged.
source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Chennai / by Aditi R / Chennai – June 21st, 2016
June 21st, 2016Arts, Culture & Entertainment, Historical Links, Pre-Independence, Leaders, Records, All
A website on the Thanjavur Maratha Royals was launched here on Sunday by Prince Pratap Sinha Raje Bhosle, the 14th descendent of Maharajah Venkoji and the Sixth descendent of Maharajah Serfoji II.
The website Serfojimemorialhall.com is in the name of Serfoji Memorial hall at the Sadar Mahal Palace, a museum founded in 1997 on the Palace premises by Prince Tulajendra Rajah Bhosle, the grandfather of Pratap Sinha.
The website contains information and details on the museum, Maratha Kings of Thanjavur and old rare photographs of the royal family. Prince Pratap Sinha Raje Bhosle started with a Facebook page in 2013 in the name of the private museum where he got a good response while in the next year he started a blogger.
In 2015, Prince Pratap published a book Contributions of Thanjavur Maratha Kings .
Maharajah Serfoji II, a descendent of the great Maratha ruler and founder of the Maratha Kingdom, Chatrapathi Shivaji the Great, ruled Thanjavur from 1798 to 1832 A.D. Prince Tulajendra Rajah Bhosle, the fourth descendant of Maharajah Serfoji II, has been living in Thanjavur Sadar Mahal Palace with his family, to preserve the heritage of the illustrious Maratha royals of Thanjavur.
To preserve the remaining antiques of Rajah Serfoji II, he formed a trust and opened a museum at Sadar Mahal in the name of “Maharajah Serfoji II Memorial Hall” that was declared opened on October 11, 1997.
The website was launched at the monthly meet of the Cholamandala Numismatic Society in the presence of Board Member, Saraswati Mahal Library, and Managing Trustee, Serfoji II Memorial Hall Museum, Prince Shivaji Rajah Bhosle, former MLA M. Rengasamy, Chairman, Parisutham Institue of Technology, S.P. Anthonisamy, historian Gopalan Venkatraman, Society president Shaktivel, founder M. Durairasu, and secretary I. Kulandaisamy.
Director of Sri Sakthi Natya Kalalayam Aruna Subrahmanyam spoke and presented a bharatanatyam performance by her disciples. Bharatanatyam master Herambanathan was present.
source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> National> Tamil Nadu / by Special Correspondent / Thanjavur – June 20th, 2016
Alagu Servai, in his sixties, is small-made, has a bald head and wears a perpetual smile. This farmer is known for his wit; on one occasion he even made chief minister J Jayalalithaa laugh when he messed up his speech papers at a felicitation ceremony organised by Madurai farmers in August, 2014. Alagu is back after a government sponsored trip to Thailand from May 22 to 29 to learn agricultural practices in that country. Excerpts from an interview.
Q: How was your trip to Thailand?
A: I was among 100 farmers sent to various countries to learn the agricultural practices followed there. I went to Thailand and visited various places of agricultural interest. The experience was an eye-opener and a learning experience.
Q: What differences did you find in the cultivation methods?
A: They cultivate everything we do, like paddy, sugarcane, banana and millets, but all of them through organic farming. Farmers get their subsidies as freebies directly from government.
Q: Anything overwhelming you have observed during the trip?
A: They have a paddy variety called ‘Madurai paddy’; it was named so in memory of Chola King Rajarajan who visited the country. Many paddy varieties were introduced from India when the Cholas maintained contact with the country, I was told.
Q: What technologies do you think could be adopted locally?
A: We can’t switch over to organic farming all on a sudden like they do. Thailand farmers cultivate coconuts in a different manner. They plant them in heaps instead of in pits like we do and use channels to keep water around the plants. Also farmers don’t hand over work to farm hands. They stay on in their farms for 8 hours. It is one of the good practices I found there. I will be sharing my experiences and lessons with our farmers soon.
source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News Home> City> Madurai / TNN / June 18th, 2016
Tamil Nadu has hit the literary jackpot this year with two authors from the state winning the Sahitya Akademi awards. The winners, Kuzha Kathiresan and Lakshmi Saravana Kumar, are a contrasting duo with just one commonality. Both of them, though happy, feel the recoginition has been delayed.
Kathiresan, a 67-year-old publisher, famous for his children’s books and poetry, began his writing career at the age of 30. He was awarded the Bala Puraskar award for total contribution to children literature.
On the other hand, Yuva Puraskar awardee Lakshmi Saravana Kumar is just 31-years-old. His novel Kaanakan, which won him the award, is set in the ganja fields of the Western Ghats in Theni district and deals with the lives of the underprivileged and the oppressed. The author, who carries his mother’s name as his first name, is also a filmmaker. He had assisted director Vasanthabalan in his period film Aravaan and the historical fiction, Kaaviya Thalaivan. Saravana Kumar is now working on the script for his first film.
Kathiresan who runs Ainthinai Pathippagam, was at his house in Anna Nagar when a well-wisher called him to inform about him being included in the list of awardees. “It is indeed a surprise. I hadn’t sent any sample work to the Akademi last year. Five years ago, I was expecting one. Then, over time, it never crossed my mind,” Kathiresan told at his Anna Nagar residence.
Saravana Kumar was busy with production meetings for his movie when he was informed of the news. “This award doesn’t call for a huge celebration, I feel. But I am happy nevertheless,” he told Express over phone. He feels that his Yuva Puraskar award was due at least three years ago for his novel, Uppu Naigal, which he considers his as his best work. Though Akademi award was delayed, both the writers were bestowed with several other awards over the years.
source: http://www.newindianexpress.com / The New Indian Express / Home> Cities> Chennai / by Srikanth Dhasarathy / June 17th, 2016
Built in 1916, the Madurai District Collectorate – the palatial stone building near Anna Bus stand – is a fine example of Victorian-era architectural style. The 100-year-old building was constructed in random rubble masonry style and flaunts stone work with huge corridors and arches. The colonial-era stone structure as seat of the Madurai district administration is a feast to the eyes.
Situated on a 30-acre plot, the building houses the Madurai North and South tahsildar offices, supply office, Tamil Nadu Medical Services warehouse, government workshop, fire station and the Madurai RDO office.
Madurai fell into the hands of the British around 1750. Nayak rule ended in Madurai in 1736 as the last Nayak Queen Regent, Meenakshi sought help of Chanda Sahib who was eyeing for throne of Carnatic. She was deceived by him. After shuffling hands between Chanda Sahib, Arcot Nawab and Muhammed Yusuf Khan alias Marudha Nayagam for a while, Madurai Kingdom smoothly ended in East India Company’s rule. British formally established Madurai district and A Mc Leod was the first collector of Madurai, assuming charges on September 6, 1790.
During that period, Madurai was within the four walls of Nayak fort. In 1837, Madurai collector John Blackburn decided to bring down the walls and expand the city. Most of the British or European settlements were outside the city towards Teppakulam, including missions established by the American missionaries.
Sadly there is not much detail available about the building. Apart form a stone tablet on the portico, there is not even a single stone inscription narrating its inaugural or people behind it like the ones found in other colonial buildings.
Madurai district collector K Veera Raghava Rao said that the district administration is planning a centenary celebration of the building.
source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News Home> City> Madurai / by Arockiaraj Johnbosco / TNN / June 12th, 2016