IIT Jodhpur was established in 2008 with an aim to empower technology education and research in India. In an exclusive interview with Analytics India Magazine, Richa Singh, Head, Department of Computer Science and Engineering and Mayank Vatsa, Professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, spoke about IIT Jodhpur’s contributions to the burgeoning field of artificial intelligence and data science in India.
AIM: Tell us about the AI Centre at IIT Jodhpur and its vision.
Richa & Mayank: In December 2020, Prof. Geoffrey Everest Hinton, Turing Award Winner, inaugurated the School of Artificial Intelligence and Data Science (aka AIDE School) at IIT Jodhpur. The vision of the AIDE School is:
- To be at the forefront of artificial Intelligence and data science research in all dimensions: theoretical research, application directed research, and locally relevant research for meeting regional needs.
- To play a leading role in the delivery of artificial Intelligence and data Science education in formal and informal sectors at all levels.
- To become a globally coveted destination for artificial intelligence and data science technology development and entrepreneurship.
AIDE School has two research centres and also hosts about 50+ regular and affiliate faculty members from different disciplines and research areas.
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AIM: What is IIT Jodhpur’s approach towards AI education and research?
Richa & Mayank: IIT Jodhpur is actively focusing on the applications of AI/ML in different domains as well as making fundamental contributions in the core areas of AI/ML. IITJ has launched:
- BTech in AI and Data Science program
- MTech in AI
- MTech-PhD in AI (dual degree)
- Executive MTech in AI for working professionals
IITJ is one of the few institutions in India to have degree programs at all levels.
At IITJ, every UG student has to undergo a fundamental course on AI/ML where they learn the basic concepts which they can apply in their domains. For instance, a mechanical engineering student has to do an “Introduction to Machine Learning” course in the third semester where they learn the foundations of ML approaches which they can then apply in different core areas of mechanical engineering in subsequent semesters. The students can then utilise their foundational knowledge in AI/ML and domain area towards solving some real-world problems when they have to pursue their undergraduate project (or BTP). Similarly, for the PG students, most of the departments have courses to cover basics to advance level AI/ML topics and their applications in different domains.
IITJ is focusing on making fundamental as well as application-level research. The research is supported through different government agencies as well as industries, including MEITY, DST, MHA, Facebook, Microsoft, and Accenture. The faculty and students of IITJ are not only publishing in the top conferences and journals but also contributing to solving the real-world problems.
AIM: What are the AI-related research and projects IIT Jodhpur is currently working on?
Richa & Mayank: As mentioned earlier, there are different projects going on at IITJ. Most notably, IITJ is hosting the Technology and Innovation Hub of Computer Vision and ARVR (iHub Drishti, as we call it) which is under the National Mission on ICPS, with the initial support of Rs. 115 crore by DST. The Hub is doing cutting edge research on AI/ML with applications in healthcare, biosphere, building autonomous systems, computer vision (CV) and Augmented and Virtual Reality (ARVR) applications in Industry 4.0, and many more.
The Hub is also the host of RAKSHAK projects focusing on AI technologies towards the COVID pandemic where different projects such as CAMPUS-RAKSHAK, Chest X-Ray analysis, and data analytics projects are under development. Faculty members are also working with research labs such as DRDO as well as the industry in solving application-oriented problems.
We are also working on several interdisciplinary projects where AI can be used to solve problems. For instance, under the Jodhpur Knowledge and Innovation Cluster, AI is being used to address different problems in the space of culture, heritage and surveillance.
AIM: Tell us about the challenges your institution has faced while working in the field of AI and data science.
Richa & Mayank: Firstly, working in the field of AI and data science poses significant computational requirements. Secondly, the interdisciplinary approach to AI and Data requires experts from different backgrounds and disciplines to interact and collaborate. These are not only the challenges but also opportunities that have provided us with future paths to go forward.
AIM: What role can the government play in promoting AI and other cutting edge domains in India?
Richa & Mayank: The Government of India, fortunately, has taken several measures – starting from the working paper on AI in 2018, and most recently, Responsible AI for All guidelines. Different projects are being sponsored by several government departments – as they are now open towards adopting AI technology in day-to-day activities. NM-ICPS, AIRAWAT program, and Indo-US Foundations initiative on Dependable AI are excellent opportunities and programs initiated by different departments.
AIM: How can outsiders benefit from the resources of IIT Jodhpur?
Richa & Mayank: IIT Jodhpur offers an MTech AI Executive program in which working professionals can register for the MTech program, and the classes are scheduled during evenings and weekends. In addition, people not registered in any degree program with IITJ can apply to credit individual courses offered in the institute. They can earn the credits by doing 1-2 individual courses in a semester, and these credits can also be used later towards earning a degree. In addition, internships are offered by several departments where students can apply and participate.
AIM: Where does India stand when it comes to R&D efforts in AI?
Richa & Mayank: India is growing fast in the AI landscape and several initiatives are in progress. However, we still have a long way to go – both in terms of AI education and AI research. We have been primarily, except in a few cases, consumers of AI technology. We should switch the gears and become consumers as well as developers of AI technology.
We are proud that IITJ has taken measures to bridge the gap by (i) skilling and reskilling programs, (ii) investing in AI infrastructure, and (ii) focusing on AI research at both core levels as well as industry-facing applications.