IIIT Hyderabad’s Product Lab Connects Research to Industry

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International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad (IIITH) launched Product Labs a few years ago to take research out of the labs, build specific use cases, and translate them into solutions comprehensible to the industry. The marketable solution could be a viable prototype, which if well received by the industry, is licensed to them through the classical route or hived off to a startup.

The very first use case the Product Labs team tried to build was for a sophisticated Natural Language Processing (NLP) application. The underlying idea of the research was to enable a user to conduct an understanding-driven search as naturally as possible. Subtle.ai is a ‘document expert’ but more complex than a mere Q&A interface. Here, the AI not only extracts the relevant information across documents but also understands the context in which the information is presented and simultaneously points out the location in the document where it is mentioned, adding to its credibility.

“People were very unaware of technology like this- the tech that can read your documents for you and then help you find relevant answers through conversation,” says Vishnu Ramesh, co-founder of Subtl.ai startup.

Subtl has diverse clients ranging from the banking sector to a large shipping and manufacturing company and even an organization involved in the procurement of defense equipment. Because of the technology’s general applicability, other sectors such as legal firms and the pharma industry too have evinced interest in the tech. In addition to this, startups and companies using traditional chatbot interfaces who have realized that much of their customer support activities need access to docs are looking at licensing the technology.

“The idea is that it [research] should be put to good use – commercial or social”, says Prakash Yalla, who heads Product Labs, an initiative of the Technology Transfer Office at IIITH.