Showing posts from March, 2017

On satellite imagery and sand mafia

The cost of launching satellites is going down, be it in the US or in India. Smaller and easier to develop micro-satellites are the latest trend, usually developed with a specific goal in mind e.g. satellite imagery. These, and a lot of other factors, have contributed to an increase in the number of satellites hovering over earth in the recent years, a number which is bound to only keep increasing.

ISRO recently put 88 (micro) satellites belonging to Planet Labs, satellites which Planet Labs will use to image the Earth everyday. ISRO and other government space organizations themselves have satellites that image the Earth and/or their respective countries on a regular basis. And a number of these organizations are releasing their data publicly.

With that context, I realized a while back that daily imagery will help identify and possibly curb sand mafia, specifically in India. The boom in infrastructure, specifically housing and office construction in India, was one of the reasons why t…

On Drones, Caves and the Ocean.

My fascination of drones is growing day after day. Of all the areas drones can be used, I want to talk about exploration for the moment. You might be wondering, what exploration? All corners of the Earth have been explored and there's nothing else to discover. Au Contraire. Correction. The surface of the Earth has been explored, not what's underneath.

NASA and other space organizations have been sending out satellites and telescopes to understand what's out there but similar efforts aren't being made to understand unexplored caves and the depths of the ocean.

Two articles that I read recently drove this point home for me; one on exploring a cave formation in Uzbekistan and another on exploring the Indian Ocean's floor. The first is an account of a team of scientists' and explorers' attempt at exploring a cave formation and discovering new regions of the cave. The second is an account of how the search for the missing MH370 flight also led to a detailed stu…

On translation and AI

This article on Baidu and it's bet on AI sparked a thought in my head. Well, the thought was to basically copy what Baidu is doing in China and do the same in India. I wrote earlier on the language barrier in India and how AI can help solve the problem.

The crux of what Baidu is doing in China is to employ a bunch of people to translate English technical documents to Chinese (Mandarin prolly). By doing so, not only is the industry able to communicate with Chinese customers better, Baidu now has a big database of English-Chinese (Mandarin) translations.

Don't you think doing the same with Indian languages would be awesome? Instead of hackathons and docathons, we could have translate-athons (?) where volunteers could translate documents into the numerous Indian languages and in the process, help in compiling an impressive English-Indian language dataset, a dataset that can now be used to train AI to better translate between English and Indian languages and maybe even between two…

On Cython and speeding up Python code

I gave a brief talk on Cython during the February meet of the PythonPune meetup group.

The talk I had in mind when I had proposed the session and the one I ended up delivering at the meet were very different, mainly because I wanted to limit the scope of the talk. Initially, I wanted to dive into Cython and give numerous code examples. However, when I finally sat down the make the presentation, I chose to lay back and give an overview of why Cython is needed in the first place and other ways to speed up Python code.

I talked about how Cython can be used to speedup Python routines and work with existing C/C++ code bases. I took a detour and asked the audience why Python was slow in the first place, in comparison to C/C++/Java/JavaScript. After driving the difference between interpreted, compiled and JIT-compiled languages, I introduced JIT compilers available in Python land e.g. Psyco, PyPy and Pyjion. PyPy is the most popular alternative compiler to the Python language but isn't …

On the language barrier and AI.

Natively, I speak Telugu. I've learnt to speak Hindi and English. I currently live in a city, where most speak Marathi. I used to live in a city where most spoke Tamil. And I'm not atypical. Most Indians cross state lines over the course of their lives, for work or other reasons. And the language barrier is the biggest problem while doing so.
Personally, even though I lived in Chennai for over 6 years, I still can't speak or understand Tamil and Marathi might as well be Arabic to me, even after living in Pune for just over an year. (I'm clearly not trying hard enough to learn the language.) Unlike me, most people who stay for a long (1+ year) at a location learn the local language, because it makes day-to-day life easier. But what about travelers? What about those who stay for a short period of time? What about those not educated in a common language?

You can argue that a majority of Indians can speak and understand Hindi. Actually, No. And no, the majority of Indians…