Indian soldiers patrolling on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), when they come face to face with Chinese soldiers, will soon be able to understand Mandarin and reply back instantly, with the help of a 600gm Artificial Intelligence-based device developed by an Indian start-up. Currently under advanced trials with the Army, it was one of the 75 AI-enabled products and applications unveiled by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh at the ‘AI in Defence’ symposium on Monday.
“It is an offline handheld language translation system which works based on AI. It has been tested in the forward areas and Army has given lot of assistance. Its performance will improve as more data comes from the field,” said Anuroop Iyengar, co-founder and managing director of the Bengaluru-based start-up Cogknit. We are currently working to make it smaller and wearable on the wrist, he said while showcasing the product at the exhibition.
It is bidirectional with a range of 5-10 feet and converts Mandarin to English. “We are also working on a Hindi version and trying to enhance the range to 20 feet,” Mr. Iyengar said. They are being supported by Kalyani Group, he said.
The first demonstration was done in 2017 and since then, there have been several trials. Stating that they are now working with the Army for deployment and orders, Mr. Iyengar added, “We have requested them to place orders with start-ups quickly.”
Troops of India and China come face to face on various occasions during patrols and local commanders too interact at various levels as part of efforts to maintain peace on the ground. Language is a major hindrance and interpreters need to be present during occasions like flag meetings.
The exhibition also had several other AI-enabled products like robotic mine detector, intrusion detection system and integrated command fusion, remote weapon station, rail mounted robo, sensors for underwater domain awareness, and swarm drones, among others.
Three AI products developed by Defence PSUs having dual-use applications and good market potential, namely AI-enabled Voice Transcription/Analysis software developed by Bharat Electronics Limited, Driver Fatigue Monitoring System developed by Bharat Earth Movers Limited and AI-enabled evaluation of welding defects developed by Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers, were screened during the event. These products are expected to open up new business avenues for the DPSUs.
Addressing the symposium, Mr. Singh described AI as a revolutionary step in the development of humanity, a proof that a human being is the most evolved creature in the universe while pointing out that AI has made inroads in almost every sector, including defence, medicine, agriculture, trade and commerce.
“While there had been full human participation in wars, new autonomous weapons/systems have been developed with the help of AI applications. They can destroy enemy establishments without human control. AI-enabled military devices are capable of handling large amounts of data efficiently. It is also proving to be very helpful in training the soldiers. In the coming times, augmented and virtual reality technologies will also be used effectively,” he stated.
Mr. Singh quoted Russian President Mr Vladimir Putin, who had said, “Whoever becomes the leader in AI will become the ruler of the world.”
Stressing on the important role academia can play in strengthening the defence sector, the Raksha Mantri stated that MoD research platforms, DRDO and DPSUs are providing support to various institutes in pursuing cutting edge AI research. He added that efforts are being made by DRDO to make strides in the field of AI through Technological Development Fund projects and ‘Dare to Dream’ contests. Several ‘Defence-Industry-Academia’ Centres of Excellence have been established across the country and AI finds prominence in the charters of many of them, he said.
Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar stated that a task force was established in 2018 for strategic integration of AI in defence and had submitted its recommendations within three months. These recommendations were implemented through the Defence AI Council, headed by the Defence Minister.
At the event, the ‘Raksha Niryat Ratna’ awards were conferred on Bharat Electronics Limited from the public sector and on Indo-MIM from the private sector for achieving highest defence exports in recent years.