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Rana Gujral (CEO at Behavioral Signals) is a pioneer in cognitive AI – and in business. He connects the dots between commercial applications for AI systems and their potential for national and global transformation.
When we caught up with him this week, he also pushed us to rethink our perspective on the boundaries between emotion and cognition. Is empathy an emotion – or is it a critical cognitive function, too?
Could you share your career journey so far, and any pivotal moments along the way?
“My career in the tech industry has been a blend of innovation, entrepreneurship, and transformative leadership. I've had the unique opportunity to build innovative products within large public companies and start new ventures from the ground up.
“One of the most enriching experiences was leading a sizable turnaround, which provided me with unparalleled learning opportunities. This journey has been about navigating both the challenges of large-scale corporate environments and the dynamism of startup culture.
“My introduction to AI came early in my career. At TiZE, we utilised machine learning models, which was a formative experience for me. It revealed the immense power of AI, and since then, I've been deeply committed to exploring its potential.
“At Behavioral Signals, we're not just using AI; we're pushing its boundaries by solving complex problems that involve cognition, emotion, behaviours, and other advanced mental states. The potential of AI in these areas is truly endless. This evolution from early AI applications to now delving into the intricacies of human-like cognitive abilities marks a significant progression in my career and in the field of AI itself.
“This journey has been about more than just technological innovation. It's about understanding and harnessing AI's potential to make a real impact on people's lives and businesses. From enhancing communication between humans and machines to transforming how businesses understand and interact with their customers, the journey in AI has been exhilarating and full of possibilities.”
Could you describe one or two key use cases for the technology you're developing at Behavioral Signals?
“Our AI-Mediated Conversations (AI-MC) technology is a groundbreaking automated call routing solution that utilises emotion AI and voice data. This technology expertly matches customers with the most suitable agents to handle their specific calls. The matching process is based on profile data and our advanced algorithms, developed from extensive research in Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Behavioral Signal Processing.
“The core idea is to create affinity or rapport between people, which is a natural and critical factor in business communications, whether it's a sales call, support, or collection. Our technology aims to optimise this human interaction, making it more effective and satisfactory for both parties involved.
A key innovation in this area is our concept of the Conversational Bioprint. We recognise that every individual has a unique conversational bioprint. Our technology has the capability to codify this bioprint by analysing acoustics from previous interactions. This allows us to create accurate behavioural profiles and use them to find the best matches for conversations.
“It's not just about categorising agents as good or bad; it's about finding the right matches for productive and positive interactions. This approach guides the conversational dynamic towards improved outcomes, such as better customer experiences, increased sales or collections, and faster issue resolutions.
“The power of Cognitive AI, especially when combined with models steeped in psychology, is immense in augmenting the human experience. By understanding and interpreting the nuances of human emotion and behaviour, Cognitive AI can transform how we interact with technology and each other. In the context of AI-Mediated Conversations, this means not only enhancing the effectiveness of communication but also providing agents with tools that make them more satisfied and effective in their work. This ultimately leads to better performance, reduced attrition, and a stronger connection between the brand and its customers.
In summary, at Behavioral Signals, we are not just creating technology; we are enhancing and augmenting the human experience by understanding the deep-seated nuances of human communication and behaviour. This is the future of interaction, where technology and human cognition converge to create more meaningful and effective connections.”
How do you envision that emotional AI technologies will develop in the future? In your wildest dreams, what might be possible?
“As a deep AI company, we at Behavioral Signals are intensely focused on replicating essential brain functions. Our work in Emotion and Cognitive AI is not just an advanced technological endeavour but a foundational building block of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). We're at the forefront of this technology, pushing boundaries to replicate complex human cognitive functions.
“Our ambition extends beyond the commercial applications we've discussed. We're also pioneering the use of emotion and cognitive AI in areas of national security and law enforcement. By applying these advanced AI technologies, we aim to enhance decision-making processes, improve situational awareness, and aid in critical operations where understanding human emotions and behaviours is paramount.
“The potential of AGI is vast and holds transformative possibilities for our society. As we work towards the development of conscious AGI, a key aspect we are focusing on is embedding empathy into these systems. Empathy is not just an emotional attribute but a critical cognitive function that will ensure AGI can interact with humans in a more understanding, compassionate, and ethical manner.
“Our work in Emotion and Cognitive AI is pivotal in this journey towards conscious AGI. By understanding and replicating human emotions and cognitive processes, we are laying the groundwork for AGI systems that are not only intelligent but also empathetic. This will be crucial in ensuring that as AGI evolves and becomes a more integral part of our lives, it does so in a way that enhances human interaction and understanding rather than detracting from it.
“In essence, our vision at Behavioral Signals is to lead the way in creating AGI that is not only intellectually capable but also emotionally intelligent. We believe that this combination of cognitive prowess and empathetic understanding will be crucial in creating AGI that can work alongside humanity, augmenting our capabilities and enriching our experiences.”
If you could give one piece of advice to a new entrepreneur who wanted to build a startup in the AI sector, what would it be?
“It would be to first meticulously observe and understand the gaps in the current AI ecosystem. In the ever-evolving landscape of AI, it's crucial to identify what's missing or what could be significantly improved. This doesn't always mean creating new AI models from scratch. Sometimes, the key to making a substantial impact lies in enhancing what already exists.
“Consider focusing on developing tools that simplify or optimise model development. In the gold rush of AI advancements, adopting a 'picks and shovels' strategy can be highly effective. By creating tools that facilitate easier or more efficient development of AI models, you can provide immense value to the field. These tools could range from data preprocessing utilities, model optimization platforms, to user-friendly interfaces for complex AI systems.
“Remember, innovation in AI isn't just about groundbreaking algorithms or cutting-edge technologies; it's also about making these technologies more accessible and usable. As an entrepreneur, if you can bridge the gap between complex AI models and practical, real-world applications, you'll not only contribute significantly to the field but also position your venture for success.
“Additionally, while venturing into AI, keep an open mind and be prepared to pivot. The AI landscape is dynamic, and flexibility can be your greatest asset. Be ready to adapt your solutions to the evolving needs and challenges in AI. This approach will not only help you stay relevant but also enable you to lead with innovation in a field that's constantly changing.”
And finally, why are events like DeepFest valuable to you?
“Events like DeepFest are incredibly valuable to me. They provide a platform for thought leaders to exchange ideas, collaborate, and stay abreast of the latest trends in AI. These gatherings are vital for networking, learning, and discussing both the opportunities and challenges presented by AI technologies, fostering a community that drives the field forward.”
If you want to learn more from Rana, join us at DeepFest 2024. Register now.
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