Experts in AI: IBM’s Dinesh Nirmal on the interplay between emerging technologies

Interacting with data using VR, and exploring misconceptions about AI

25 October 2019

Dinesh Nirmal is VP for data and AI at IBM, and an expert on emerging technologies. During his keynote at the AI Summit in San Francisco, he proposed an unusual idea: what if we could use augmented and virtual reality to manipulate data, the way we manipulate physical objects?

“We have been interacting with data for a very long time, mainly through computers. Now it is changing, you talk to the data and the data talks back – look at chatbots, home assistance [systems], where you can have a conversation with your data.

“I’m taking it to the next level, where I’m saying: what if you walk with your data, or what if you walk into your data, where you can have a 3D visualization of the data, and you’re inside, where you can easily do explainability on all of these things?

“AR and VR are more of a futuristic thing in data, but we are doing some research [in this area].”

Nirmal also identified three misconceptions about AI, frequently encountered in the enterprise.

“When I look at AI, there are three trends happening,” he said. “One is around data: people really think all enterprise data exists in some CSV file. That’s far from the truth – data is siloed, data is fragmented, the quality of data is not good, there are so many challenges.

“The second one is algorithms, because once you develop the model and you deploy it, people think ‘OK, the work is done, my model is scoring well’ – but that’s not the case. That’s where the real work starts. Is the model drifting? Is the model fair, or is it biased? Model management becomes very critical.

“The third piece is compute – because, as more and more data comes into enterprises, do you have enough computing power? And that’s where something like quantum comes in.”