Warrior Monk Conversations 015: Technology, Wellbeing, and Communities for Greater Good with Sridhar
Updated: Jul 28, 2020
I interview my dear friend Tech Guru Sridhar Solur—responsible for life-changing technology in our world like the wearables, and we talk about using technology for the greater good.
He emphasizes on the importance of creating products that address a need, the humanization of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and how institutions will adapt in the future including education (MOOCs), the process of bioinformatics in healthcare, e-Commerce, among others.
He also talks about the era of mobile as the era of equalization when anyone has the opportunity to launch a startup and be connected with other communities.
Sridhar Solur is the Founder of HP's Cloud/Mobile Printing business, Mobile Incubator. He’s also the former head of all products and Engineering for Digital Home at Comcast. He was Chief Product Officer, EVP/GM at SharkNinja working on Appliances, Foodtech and Robotics and Board Member of IOTC. He’s also the Head of Business and led the creation of Shark’s first advance navigation robot—SharkIQ Robot. In addition he was the Top 20 IoT influencers by Ink Magazine and Mentor to 500 Startups and an Alchemist Enterprise Accelerator.
Sridhar holds a Master of Business Administration from Boston University and a Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Engineering in electrical engineering from the National Institute of Technology in India.
Follow Sridhar Solur on Twitter.com/sridharsolur
Connect with Sridhar on LinkedIN: https://www.linkedin.com/in/solur
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Warrior Monk Conversations 015: Technology, Wellbeing, and Communities for Greater Good with Sridhar
Welcome to Warrior Monk Conversations, a treasure trove of inspirational discussions in personal and professional development.
I am Poonacha Machaiah. Join me on this journey where I have immersive conversations with the most thought-provoking leaders and everyday heroes from our communities to inspire, educate, and empower you to build resilience and reach your highest potential. Join me on this mission to create a positive societal shift to the compassionate transformation of humankind.
Sridhar Solur is a product builder and entrepreneur focused on robotics, IoT, and AI based products. He founded HP's Cloud/Mobile and wearables business building products for lifestyle brands such as Hugo Boss, Coach, Titan, Ferrari, and Movado. He was also the head of all products and engineering for Digital Home at Comcast, building products like Xfinity Home and xFi. Recently, he was a Chief Product Officer, EVP and GM at SharkNinja, working on appliances, food-tech, and robotics. He was in the Top 20 IoT Influencers by Ink Magazine, a board member and advisor at IOTC, and mentor to 500 Startups and Alchemist Enterprise Accelerator.
Poonacha: Okay friends, I am really excited this morning to have my dear friend, Sridhar Solur, who is the---who I call the Oracle of Technology Product, and anytime I have a question on the future of technology and innovation, he is the go-to man. So, Sridhar, such a pleasure to have you this morning.
Sridhar: Poonacha, thank you. Very kind words. Yeah, looking forward to this conversation, man.
Poonacha: Awesome. So let's kind of---before I, you know, get into the details, and he has a lot of information to unpack this morning, I want to do a brief intro of Sridhar and why I believe you want to hear this here first that what he is going to say over the next 30 to 45 minutes, no pressure, Sridhar, is going to determine the future of technology, products and services, industries, and how institutions will adapt and thrive post the pandemic, and he has beautifully mapped over the last five milestones or eclipses which have happened in human civilization, how we have come out stronger as a species and hopefully continue to do so.
So I'm really excited because this is a perfect conversation where technology, wellbeing, and communities come together for greater good, and that's really the reason I wanted to have Sridhar today. Let me do a quick background on Sridhar, and this could take a long time, but I'm going to do the Reader's Digest version of Sridhar here.
Sridhar Solur is a product builder and entrepreneur focused on robotics, IoT, and all AI based products. He founded HP's Cloud/Mobile---and I remember those early days when he's talking about Cloud Print and how he took it from just a napkin drawing all the way into a thriving business, and today, we take cloud printing for granted---mobile and wearable business building products for lifestyle brands like Hugo Boss, Coach, Titan, Ferrari and Movado.
So he actually made 'quantified self' or wearables cool, right? Most wearables were not wearable, and I remember him working with Titan and all the companies and really making the so-called Fitbit so the world---and the watches really look cool and sexy, and that's really what Sridhar has done.
He was also the head of products and engineering of Digital Home at Comcast, building products like Xfinity Home and xFi. Recently, he was a Chief Product Officer, EVP and GM at SharkNinja, working on appliances, food-tech, and robotics. He was in the Top 20 IoT Influencers by Ink Magazine, a board member and advisor at IOTC, and mentor to 500 Startups and Alchemist Enterprise Accelerator.
While he is not working, he is an addict when it comes to running, climbing trails. He has three dogs, loves his family, he's an amazing father, and above all, we also share a love for our favorite home city, Bengaluru, and any given point of time when we can have a nice Masala Dosa, which is a South Indian crepe, and some good filter, maiso(4:20) filter coffee, it is, I would say, a delight.
So, even though we can't have it today, I think virtually we are going to connect, and I think two Bangalore boys really having a conversation on the future of technology, industry, products, and institutions. So, Sridhar, with that, take it away, my friend.
Sridhar: Poonacha, that's quite the intro. Thank you. You know, no one has used the words Sridhar and sexy in one sentence before, and what I'm really happy is, you know, as you said, you know, two Bangalore boys and, you know, sitting in the US and, you know, and talking tech and, you know, this is gonna be a fun session.
Again, before I jump into the session and share my thoughts and presentation, I have to tell you, no one can be clear wind, of course, you know, there are lots of assumptions, hypothesis, and some of these hypothesis are yet to be validated because we are talking about a post pandemic world, and we don't know.
So take things that I say about post pandemic world with a, you know, pinch of salt and add to this conversation, you know, post questions, add to this conversation, so that we can enrich each other's lives.
Poonacha: And I'm going to share, I think, your Twitter handle, @SridharSolur, and obviously, on the show notes, and let's kind of keep this dialogue and conversation. Absolutely right, but I can tell you, friends, you know, he's going to be banging on.
Sridhar: Oh, my God, that's a lot of pressure. (both laugh) Without further ado, I'll jump into my presentation, and, Poonacha, stop me, you know, and as I'm going through the deck, if you have any questions, you know, you could get that clarified.
Poonacha: Trust me, I'm going to have a lot of conversation with you.
Sridhar: All right, great! So post any questions either directly to Poonacha or on the
Poonacha: On Facebook, yep.
Sridhar: Yeah, Facebook, Twitter, and then we'll take it from there, guys. So with that said, as Poonacha said, you know, who I am as a person, I just want to tell you some of the products that I've built, right? So, cloud print, your ability to print from mobile was an era between 2007 to like, you know, 2011.
A gadiers watch that you see, that was our one of the earlier Movado Connected watches. We knew that, you know, Apple was going to come up with the watch. We knew there was going to be a disruption, and we went to the watch companies and said, "look," you know, "we'll help you create a gorgeous connected watch," you know, "so that what you wear is fashion, what you carry is technology, so you can have the best of both worlds."
So when you can build, you know, fashion tech products for brands like Hugo Boss, to suitor, Ferrari, Titan, you know, the Bangalore company, Poonacha.
Sridhar: Yeah, I'm so happy that, you know, we're able to give back to the country where we were born, and then what, with Comcast, to work on connected home, focusing on home security, home automation, and what's really fun there is, you know, we saw digital and physical coming together, like, you know, we were talking about physical security like, you know, home security, just like ADT, just like SimpliSafe, and all the well known brands, to give you peace of mind.
But then the biggest question that came in that much is, when your kids come to you and say, "Dad, I want to go out and play," you have two questions: 'Where are you going to go? And with whom are you playing?' That's in the physical world. Don't you want to know what your kids are doing in the digital world?
Sridhar: You know, and we thought we could bring in peace of mind with both physical and digital coming together, and that's the product that we created in Comcast, you know, Xfinity Home and xFi. And recently, you know, from IoT, we thought we will put IoT on wheels and bring the robots, you know, the Shark IQ Robot, which is now shipping in the marketplace. I can easily say it is my baby, you know. It maps your home, you know, understands the idiosyncrasies of the light conditions, and knows to navigate back to the dock, and it empties itself into a trashcan.
So long story short, you know, from SAS products on one side, all the way up the robots, and before that, you know, I used to work on products, you know, if the name has to wisdom rings a bell, you know, I can tell you, you know, that's a product that I worked on long time ago.
Poonacha: Here's the question I want to ask you, Sridhar, we'll look at it, this is an important thing because as designers, as technologists, as you look into the future, it's about why do we do what we do? Right? As a technologist, how can you design for greater good? It's not about coming up with the next version of Angry Birds or the next thing, but why do we---what can we do?
So I want to ask you a question. When you look at designing, and every time you look at designing a product or a service---I love the fact that you said, "you know what? Children have to be saved digitally, or I want to improve convenience so people can be more creative at home in doing other things"---how do you go to the process of coming up with a clarity? Do you have a process or what does that---how do you kind of go through that process? Why do you do what you do?
Sridhar: It's very simple. You need to understand the machine behind the product. It's not just to create economic value. You need to understand the mission. So let's go to the three products that come in here and then look at the mission.
Sridhar: If you wear something that is gorgeous, the mission is you feel good, you feel beautiful, you feel happy, you know. You wear what you wear because nobody wears a watch, let's take the expensive mechanical watch, timekeeping is such a hoax, you know. It's not to find out what the time is, you know. It tells you something about yourself, you know. You want to project your persona, and that gives you a level of satisfaction, for some people.
So what do you wear as fashion? I keep saying this again and again. It's like, if everything was very functional, we wouldn't have so many brands like, you know, we would just be covering ourselves like space age clothes, and all of us would wear the same kind of clothing all the time. So the goal here was to fulfill and make people feel good about themselves, right?
So the fashion tech piece was okay. There is a quantified self, you know, so that you can make yourself better, and, you know, the only race you have is with yourself, and so every morning we could feel better, both the way you look and the way you feel. So that was the goal in bringing, you know, some of these fashion tech watches. Like, you know, we spoke about---so the first thing is having a mission.
Sridhar: The second thing is, you need to be able to solve problems like, for example, in our robot, we created an auto-empty dock. The reason was really simple. All these robotic vacuum cleaners have a small dust cup. Every time it goes and cleans, you know, you have to take this like a little small dust cup and go and empty it. It just doesn't make sense! Because you're moving from a world where things are being done by you, the world where things are being done for you, so that you can go do---you free up your time to do something bigger.
So long story short is, you know, you absolutely have to completely understand your consumer, you know, understand what they're actually looking for, not what they're asking but, you know, what they need, and then try and take care of that need; and that's what we are focused on, like, you know, there's an insane focus on the consumer and their needs and creating products around them, and if the products that you create are not, you know, four plus stars, don't even try, don't even try. You need to create products that are four plus stars.
Poonacha: And this is an important point because there's a very interesting podcast or Twitter storm by Naval Ravikant. I really urge everybody to listen to him, and one of the things he talks about is how AI---people always talk about, "oh no! Technology, AI, are they going to replace us humans? What are they going to do?" and this conversation's to actually unpack some of these things. Technology is neutral. AI is neutral. The application of AI and technology can free up humans, right?
Today, if I can send a robot in a hazardous environment for COVID-19 tech, it's amazing what it can do. It can help firefighters, first responders, and that's where technology comes in. If I'm just building technology for the sake of building technology, yes, it's not useful, but I think AI for greater good, I would say, humanizing AI, right? Is an important thing to think about while we take a look at this whole---and AI is here to stay. Right?
It is definitely going to make a difference in humanity, and then Sridhar's going to share his vision. I think this is a good thing. I would urge people to listen to Naval's conversations, you know, and how when people talk about, people---like the printing press came and people thought they were going to lose jobs, but look what happened, right?
So, anyway, sorry, let's go ahead.
Sridhar: Great point, you know. Keep that in mind, you know, humanization of AI, and we'll talk about ambient interfaces. We'll talk about sentient, and you're going to have some fun there, Poonacha, and of course, you know, along with Naval on one side and Chamlet on the other. You know, those are some of the key leaders to follow. Let's jump in!
So what you see here is a framework I've used before, and it's very simple. The focus is the United States for a moment, so bear with me, I don't want to lose you here. We have looked at exponential technologies, and we define exponential as two things. One, the ramp up of adoption of the product or the technology has to be exponential. It should look like an exponential curve. The second is very simple. It should percolate down or penetrate 60% of the US population.
In the last hundred years, you know, we have seen five. Just five! You know, from a technology perspective, wherein the products have had an exponential ramp up, and it's reached 60% of the US population, and that happened in the 1920s, it was a radio; in the 50s, it was television, and the early 2000s, late 90s, you know, was the rise of the internet, and then you have the aero of mobile, which is, you know, 2007 to 2009, and now, we are seeing an exponential ramp up of something else. We'll talk about that.
But the framework, Poonacha, ways to like look backward, and this framework, this slide, actually, is not my slide. This was presented initially, you know, by Mary Meeker in 2012, and I thought this was a great framework to use. Look backwards into times of economic recession or depression, and look at the technologies that thrived, that's number one, the products it created, which is number two, and three, the institutions that went through a seismic shift or a massive change.
Create the framework, extend that framework to the current world, and see what those technologies are, what those potential products are, and potentially the institutions that could go through a massive change.
Poonacha: It's beautiful because I think this is when it's about looking at the so-called chaos of today and taking a lens looking backwards and then see what emerged from the chaos, right? So even though today's world is very chaotic, very uncertain, I believe that this too shall pass, and then let us look at what are some of the technologies that potentially could emerge, right? And take, I would say, a more, I would say, hope.
Sridhar: Yeah, I mean, you know, hope and faith and progress in humanity, and let's also talk about these others and see what are the other events, right? Poonacha, when I go to the next slide, since both of us were not born in the first two tech, when the first two technologies took off, so let's just focus on the last three technologies, if that's okay?
Sridhar: Last three exponential curves. So there's one thing I want to say before we move on to the next slide: all these technologies have had an exponential ramp up in and around times of economic recession or depression, which is like fascinating, you know. This should give us a lot of hope, right? As to where the world is going.
So with that said, you know, let me jump into the next slide here. It's an eye chart. Don't try to read it. Just, let's just follow through. Let's go to the world of, you know, Y2K, right? You know, year 2000, all the way on the left, and we call this the era of internet, and what I'm also going to do, Poonacha, is, you will have to tell me if you can see this. I'm going to try and write with my hand. Do you see?
Poonacha: I can see. I can see it.
Sridhar: Alright! Massive. Beautiful. Touch interface, right? So, the thing is, the era of internet, when we went through the economic recession of, you know, early 2000, you know, where---it was very simple! The technologies that basically achieved critical mass, you know, and the products were associated with e-commerce, content moved to the web, and, of course, there was a population of broadbands.
Do you remember the days, Poonacha, when we had modems? You know. (Poonacha laughs)
Poonacha: 9600 baud, you know, wow, is that amazing!
Sridhar: Baud was really a baud man, you know. So, long story short, the era of internet, you know, enabled a lot of things, you know. Like, for example, the start of the demise of brick-and-mortar, you know, the rise of Amazon. The thing that you want to remember is, every recession is like a portal. When some of the previous technologies, they go through an acceleration, it's like a portal when you achieve another escape velocity, and then you go to another one, another escape velocity.
Look at where we are today, and look at the state of brick-and-mortar. If you're looking at the stocks, look at Amazon, on where it is, right? In the era of internet, we have three hundred million devices connected to the internet, and then you move into, you know, the era of mobile, you know, which is basically the 2007/2009 kind of era, you know. I say that, you know, because of recession.
The thing that you want to see is, you know, basically, in the era of internet day, there were things that happened at the "edge". That means you got broadband at home, you know. A lot of people started getting laptops. The concept of cloud exactly did not exist. You know, you had websites that were created, but they were still in physical data centers in, you know, in big companies' data centers.
But when you went to the era of mobile, suddenly, there's a polar shift that happened to the cloud, you know. When in ancient cloud we're like equal citizens, in the era of internet and the era of mobile, everything went to the cloud.
Sridhar: And then, you saw a magnitude increase in the number of devices connected to the internet. Magnitude! It went from 300 million to like 3 billion devices connected today, which is massive! And it was just not, you know, the era of mobile is not just about mobile; it was mobile, social, and cloud.
Sridhar: And I want to highlight one other thing here. I spoke about acceleration, you know, when you go through the portal of recession. So, you were talking about hope. So, when you pick the right technologies, the right set of products, you're going to accelerate. You're going to do extremely well, you know, when you go through those portals.
Similarly, in the era of mobile, I want to highlight one other thing. It's not just mobile; it was mobile, social and cloud, but it is also a great equalizer. You were talking of hope.
Sridhar: Acceleration is hope. It's a positive thing, right? I also call, when you go through a portal like this, it's the era of equalization. I say this because for you to be an entrepreneur in the year 2010/2011, it was fantastic! Because you could be sitting in a country like India, you could access Amazon Web Services. You don't even need all these servers in your basement to like build a startup!
Sridhar: You could use computing stances, you know. You could market via social, right? And look at all the farmers in like Africa and India, you know. They could basically transact, you know, like one among equals with the Western farmers with that---just with their mobile phones.
Sridhar: So, long story short, talking about hope, you know, every recession or every exponential ramp up is associated, you know, it is also an equalizer. It's an accelerator and an equalizer, right? Those are the two things that you want to remember.
Poonacha: And also, I think it gives an opportunity for innovation, breakthrough innovation, right? Because now, like you talked about this one person sitting in a garage could come up with---everything's getting virtualized, right?
Poonacha: Let's say somebody is an amazing WebRTC programmer. What is the next evolution of Zoom? What is the next evolution of this conversation? I mean, there's so much innovation possible because everything is now getting virtualized. So I think that there is this, this window and this portal for very rapid accelerated innovation.
Sridhar: I'll give you four words where the world is going, you know.
Sridhar: It's like, very simple, like--It also has like a kind of a triage. It's like, digital, mobile, virtual, personal.
Sridhar: Like, you know, it's like, every time you go to a portal of recession, it just accelerates. You are accelerating, you know, digitization. You know, everything is going mobile, like, you know, and virtual, and personal. So here we are, we have a framework, you know. I spoke about acceleration. I spoke about equalization. I spoke about the magnitude increase in connectivity to the web. Right?
And, I also highlighted some of the power shifts, you know, like, you have equal citizens of "edge" and cloud in the era of, you know, internet. In the era of mobile, you know, there was a power shift to the cloud, and what we're seeing, Poonacha, right now, you're seeing the power distribution going back to the "edge", you know.
Think about it in this way, like---I'm not trying to make this philosophical, you know. You have like globalization, centralization, and suddenly, like, you know, we are like, moving back into, like, you know, but most of the intelligence was going into the "edge". We are living on the "edge". You went from a country's perspective, you know, economic nationalism has taken off, you know, like, it was global, and now, we're talking about each country behaving differently.
So again, not to make this philosophical, but I think the prominence of the "edge" is something that you're going to see.
Poonacha: And in fact, this has always happened, right? You always see this, you know, this kind of rubber banding happening, right? You have your mainframes, then you basically got into personal computing, then you basically got into like cloud, then you got into objects, right? So you always see this kind of rubber banding effect happening, and there's innovation in any one of these transitions.
Sridhar: Absolutely. Absolutely.
So, here comes the hypothesis to be validated. Not clairvoyant, not oracle, and not a soothsayer. But the hypothesis is, we are moving from 3 billion to like 20 billion objects connected to the internet.
There's nothing wrong. We have seen it, you know, everything is being connected to the internet, from doorbells, cars, you name it, being connected to the internet, even people being connected to the internet. It was on the body. Now, we have seen artificial pancreas, and we'll talk about it because before I jump into the era of objects, someone else said, you know, this is going to be the era of enchanted objects, and we'll talk about again enchantment pieces later because the way you get enchantment is through machine intelligence, right?
You know, you're moving to be more sentient. You know, you understand the surroundings. You're moving from a world where things were being done by you to done for you. You gave a phenomenal example of hazardous---yeah, and one man's like firefighters. You don't need to send human beings there to have done by you and done for you. Send robots there, alright? As such. Just cleaning home, done by you, done for you.
Let's talk about distribution centers where today people, you know, in spite of the pandemic ongoing, they're basically packing stuff for us and putting in boxes. It's hard! You know, and they're, again, done by you, done for you. Like, you know, you will see robots in like, you know, distribution centers, and largest is they play a bigger role, and, of course, you know, we were talking about, you know, the interface, understanding who you are, understanding the context, you know, the admin interface, and we'll talk about it, like, because---
Poonacha: And I think we should, before this conversation is let go, we should, I would love to get your perspectives on technology in the future of intimacy. Right? As we look at these objects and enchanted objects and sentient objects, and the social, we talked about, I love the visual, virtual, mobile, and social.
What is the---how can technology be more intimate? One of the arguments I always get is that you're super connected but very lonely, right? And especially now with social distancing and things like that. In the new world, how can technology also be an aid in increasing intimacy? So let's park that for now, but I'd love to get your thoughts on that.
Sridhar: Alright. I'll put that on the side, and we'll go, we'll talk about your digital intimacy.
Poonacha: How can we make Tinder more tender? How's that?
Sridhar: Tinder more tender? I know the guest that you need to bring on your next podcast. He's a fellow Indian. He's a co-founder of Tinder, and I'm going to introduce you. His name is Dinesh Moorjani. He's the co-founder of Tinder, and you have to, you know, ask him this question.
Poonacha: Okay, I'll do that.
Sridhar: So long story short is, if you saw mobile/social/cloud, you look at what's happening with the FAANG stock right now, and if you look at some of the ROBO indexes, you know, if we look at bioinformatics as an index, you will see it is just taking off even in the era of COVID.
So long story short, the hypothesis here is, you know, we are looking at robotics, machine intelligence, and ambient interfaces taking off, the previous technologies will go through an acceleration. So e-commerce will just absolutely kick off like big, big time, you know. This is to the power of two. Mobile/social/cloud? 100%! You know, it was already accelerating, you will see that, you know, the slope of that will be much higher as it passes through the next portal, you know, the portal of era of objects. So long story short, we will bring this all together on the final slide, so don't worry about this.
Now, so I want to talk about how the user behaviors are changing and will be at the new normal. I'm talking about the world of physical and digital coming together in some shape, way, or form. I want to highlight that, we were talking about people-to-people interactions, you're going to see people-to-machine interactions happening. Just take robotics.
Robots in the ICU, you know, that's taken off. Telepresence, space robots have taken off. You know, robots in distribution centers have taken off. The man-machine interface is becoming softer and softer, the experiences are getting more and more humanized, and we'll talk about, you know, going from sentient to sentiment. You will be more acquainted.
Think of the good old days, Poonacha, where we had these headsets, you know, when you would not keep the phone to your ear.
Sridhar: When---the early days of Bluetooth headsets, and to be standing and talking, and people thought, you know,
Poonacha: You're weird.
Sridhar: Yeah, weird. Right. Today, it's like the new normal. I mean, like, if you're doing that, it doesn't matter at all. Remember the days when you were like, 'oh, you know what? I have a smart speaker at home. Am I gonna scream out commands when I have guests at home?' No, like, no, that's a new normal. Like, my son screams out, you know, "Alexa, what is this?" You know, "Siri,
Poonacha: I mean, I think ambient computing is here to stay. It's almost like you can't go without it, right? It's there everywhere. It's pervasive.
Sridhar: The social norms have changed, right? The new normal has changed. So long story short, people-to-people interfaces to people-to-machine, and we will continue to accelerate, to move in a world where we go from, you know, asset-heavy to asset-light and access heavy right, of such. That's only going to accelerate, you know, going further. So long story short,
Poonacha: And this is really important because I think, you know, one of the things I see is that as you go into the new norm, I think we have realized now how little we actually need, right? We've actually realized as human species, we don't need all the heavy infrastructure. You know what, we're actually able to, in these four walls, still do what we need to do. Did we need that huge sprawling office? Did we need that huge sprawling institution with so much of carbon footprint?
I think this is where, I said, I would say, conscious technology is going to come into place. Conscious institutions are going to come into place. How much do we need? Can we coexist? Nature has been a great leveler, right? So there's kind of asset-heavy, how much, I think Gandhi said or somebody said that, you know, there's enough world, enough in the world for every man's need except for one man's greed. Right?
Poonacha: I think we are going to go back, and really, I think technology is going to say, 'no, you don't need so many assets to get the job done. Let us really look at the ethos,' and this is, I know you want to touch about it, how institutions are going to adapt in the future.
Sridhar: Why don't we talk about it now, right? Let's look at, you know, the last two, you know, recessions and then hindsight had, the institutions that actually changed in, you know, after 9/11, you know, travel and transportation. Who would have thought, like, for you and me, it's no big deal, right? Walking barefoot in an airport. I don't think, you know, we would have mind, you know,
Poonacha: That's a norm.
Sridhar: It's a norm, right?
Sridhar: Right, and there you go. So, but, if for,you know, for people who have lived all their lives in the western economies, like, who would wear shoes in the airport, you know, became a new norm! For example.
Sridhar: 2008, you look at the financial oversight, you know, and that industry went through a transformation. Of course, e-commerce, the brick-and-mortar went through a transformation. Now, if you actually look at it, you spoke about institutions, you know, asset-heavy and asset-light. Education tech will absolutely go through a transformation.
Think about it. I'm seeing universities and colleges literally waiving GRE, Poonacha! (Poonacha chuckles) But, then fees are quite sky-high. Fees. The same courses that are taught in class in some of these big schools, you can do them online for literally free at this point in time, and jobseekers don't have to worry because big companies like Facebook, Apple, and the companies that I have worked in, nobody actually looks at your pedigree anymore. It's like what you know and what you have built rather than where you came from, and that is a great level of, you know. So education tech.
Poonacha: And that is such an important point because with all these MOOCs, right? Massive Open Online Courses, edX, Coursera, Udacity, I mean, Harvard, MIT, they're all putting their courses online, and it is interesting because you actually, you're right, it is a great leveler, right?
Before, going into a prestigious, breaking the bank, being in student loans all your life. Now, the new g---the gig economy is saying, 'I need this to be done. Can you get it done?' Right? And that is an amazing leveler because if somebody in San Diego can do something, that's great. If somebody in Ukraine can do something, that's great. Right?
And this is why you see companies today like Upwork and Toptal, and all are gearing up for this gig economy coming. No, people are looking at 'what does your portfolio look like?' Right?
Poonacha: 'So can you get this job done?' Right?
Sridhar: Absolutely. So, education tech, the institution, you know, that's definitely going to go through a massive transformation. The second one is the byproduct of bioinformatics.
In the last month, a doctor certified in California is talking and treating and helping patients in New York! This was a big barrier! If you actually look and map out, you know, the number of administrators versus doctors in the world of healthcare, sadly, we live in a very bloated system, right? Our healthcare is vastly inefficient. You're going to see that going through a massive transformation post pandemic. And you know what, who's going to gain? Hopefully, again, and I say hopefully because there are other externalities and forces in the US---is basically a common man.
Now, suddenly, all the doctors that we work with, you know, pediatrics, they're all, there's an act! Mariucci! And just to give you an example, one of the doctors' pain and---the consultation fee used to be like $200+ an hour. On Mariucci, it's $40 an hour. How fantastic is that! Like, and.
The goal here is, at least two institutions are going to go to a massive change. Edtech and, you know, healthcare, that's intuitively obvious, and then you're going to see the, you know, the effect of other institutions, the first derivative, the second derivative, and third derivative institutions that are going to go through a massive change.
Commercial real estate, for example, there's going to go to a massive change. We know what's happening with Main Street right now, which is---we've been sad. You know, I posted about this earlier on how the stocks are going up, but also unemployment is going up. Wall Street is thriving and Main Street is dying. You know, that dichotomy is hard to reconcile, but long story short, post pandemic, talking about hope, we spoke about accelerators and equalizers, I really think that is as a group, we got to look at equalizers and invest and retool ourselves in those accelerators and jump in on that bandwagon.
Poonacha: I completely agree with you. I was just thinking when you were speaking. I read this book, I think by Eric Topol, The Patient Will See You Now. Right? There's a radical transformation. So in short, the doctor will see you now. Now because of the accelerated telemedicine, and you'll also see innovation at the "edge", at the home, when now with advanced biometric screening and all those things like blood pressure cuffs and all that which were kind of going slowly but will get accelerated.
Camera technology with depth and instead, the digital depth cameras, looking at heart rate variability, looking at blood pressure, looking at vascular dilation, all the things which you could need in a device, I think camera technology will innovate, and now, the physician can---very interesting for people a day can see 40 people a day.
So now, the answer here is that, no! The physician has not basically been compromised or they're not losing economy. They're seeing more people, but they're also doing more things which in short the mundane diagnostics, people They're able to actually get it in their fingertips. So there's telemedicine and data acquisition at the "edge", especially in healthcare. FDA is now stepping up. I've seen certain drugs, because of COVID, being accelerated, right?
Poonacha: And this is only going to push the envelope because people are going to demand it.
Sridhar: 100%! Yeah, you know, absolutely.
Sridhar: So now, let's jump into, you said depth cameras, you know. Well, let me quickly go through the three things like, you know, technology trends, you know, it's---this is a very deep slide. Don't, don't worry about it. Very simple. You're going from core to the "edge", you know, from
Poonacha: By the way, for people listening over here, this could be a two-day conversation. We're trying to get this done within an hour, so yes, so I totally understand. (chucklingly)
Sridhar: (37:46)So if you look at computing, you know, where companies like Intel, you know, the conversation about Moore's Law, or, you know, I think kind of like Moore's Law is kind of like struggling a wee bit, you know, everybody agrees.
So, you went from like CPUs, you went to NPUs, you know, which is like neuromorphic computing, where you basically have a chipset, wherein, which is made for AI, let me put it this way. It's made for AI. It's not linear computing. It's noodle computing. And now, quantum! Go look at some of the earlier announcements this year. The era of quantum computing, you know. That's happening.
So, on the computing side, you're going to see, very simple, you're going from centralized to decentralized, right? And we saw that shift. We highlighted that shift. As you move from the era of glass labs to the era of enchanted objects, you know, from 3 billion to 30 billion connected devices, you know, you need to have that wee bit of decentralization in there. Experiences are going to be more immersive. You spoke about this, Poonacha. You said, you know, we will move, you know, basically from cameras to depth cameras.
Sridhar: Right? I think somewhere I have here, depth cameras.
Poonacha: Yep, I see depth camera's right there. Yep.
Sridhar: There you go. Like depth cameras. We went from directional audio to like, you know, multiphase audios, like microphone. The thing that is, that you have in all the smart speakers today, right?
Poonacha: There's holophonic sound. Now, there's an ability for you to really create the three dimensional sound experiences where you can almost feel, you can put yourself in a market in Marrakech or in the mountains of the Himalayas and be able to feel this kind of stereophonic sound, right?
Sridhar: Yeah, but with all the travel restrictions so, you know, that's the only thing that I can enjoy these days. I mean, (Poonacha chuckles)
Poonacha: Yeah, think about Gandhi Bazaar.
Sridhar: Oh, that. If you're taking me back to the Masala Dosa as, you know, which
Poonacha: I think about it nowadays. It's almost like my go-to thing. Anyway.
Sridhar: So, the thing that I want to highlight is, you know, you basically, in the era of e-commerce, in the era of like, you know, social, cloud, and mobile, people are doing like sentiment analysis, and now, some of the things that we have created, even in the world of robotics, it's very close. It's really close in certain environments with certain boundary conditions. It's really close to a human.
So you're basically moving from the world of like sentiments to sentience, you know. You're going to see that happening at this point in time, and then, not react robots, you know. If you actually look at cleaning robots, you know, Roomba was there, gosh, you know, for the last 20 years, it was discrete robotics, but now you see robotics, one robot talks to the other. You had one drone; now, you have like a swarm of drones, like, you know, working with each other. We had---
Poonacha: It's almost ironic you're talking about this. I was telling you that 1992, when I first came here to the US, I was programming robots, but nobody would hire me 'cause they were like, 'what?! Robots? '92? No, no way!' And it's interesting to see, then I said, "okay, can I use AI technology for fraud analysis?" which is very good, but then I look back now, there's this resurgence, right? Obviously, going into the new era.
Sridhar: Absolutely. Now, it's like not just people-to-people, you know, or people-to -machine, it's machine-to-machine communication, you know, that's coming together. Also, if you look at the eras, you know, the thing that I didn't talk to you about is between the two eras, there are certain trends that pop up, and let's talk, you know, going holistic here a wee bit, Poonacha, just think of this era of going organic, you know. We've seen that trend.
And now, in addition to going organic, we are seeing things that are being inserted into human beings like, you know, 3D printed valves, you know, artificial pancreas that people carry, some things that are being embedded, you know, and I laugh about this and say, "look, in 10 years from now, when someone comes and says, 'I have a chip on my shoulders,' then I believe it's such a bad thing," you know. (Poonacha laughs)
So, long story short, you know, we are moving from discrete to integrated, you know, when it comes to robotics, and as people, we are stepping from being organic to a wee bit bionic, you know, and if you actually look at some of the technology trends, I want to summarize, you know, centralized to decentralized, you know, sentiments to sentience, you know, discrete to integrated, you know, organic to bionic, and those are the trends, but I want to summarize, you know, so that, you know, you and I can have like a conversation on any of those questions.
Look, to somebody is, via going through these portals, think of it as portals. The last portal that we went through, it was mobile/social/cloud, you know, that basically shocking predominance. Before that, it was e-commerce, content going to the web, and most importantly, you know, broadband, you know, access, and people connected to the internet.
We spoke about the connects connectivity. You spoke about the connects connectivity in, you know, like, think about it, if a doctor was seeing, you know, four patients, you could see 40 patients now, you know. You know, as you highlighted The Patient Will See You Now, there is this magnitude change, the connects change, and that is something that's happening.
So the hypothesis, if you're into the world of robotics, and robotics is absolutely going to change and transform industries, like, you know, distribution centers, or surgical robotics are going to take off, and, so from people-to-people to people-to-machine, and machine-to-machine is going to take off.
So I have seen these sensors and sensor hubs, the price has, like, drastically gone down. The price of lighter modules, gosh! It used to be so expensive! You can get a lighter module for 12 bucks now! Wow! $4! And it's amazing! So, machine intelligence will be everywhere. Simple things like anomaly detection, you were talking about fraud detection.
Sridhar: You know. So anomaly detection is everywhere, seeing patterns in space, seeing patterns and time. Some of the cameras right now will do people detection, parcel detection, and pet detection. That's like given, you know, patterns in space, and you can see patterns in time, you know, and that is there in most of the smart speakers, right? You know, because the smart speakers will distinguish between a dog and a hot dog, you know, because it knows you said hot first and the dog later. So,
Poonacha: And in fact, on this particular topic, I would love people to kind of go and check out some of the innovation at MIT Media Labs, right? Rosalind Picard's lab is doing some amazing work and looks at ambient computing, looking at, you know, humanizing AI. So there's a lot of innovation even happening today in universities, and I'd love for people to kind of to maybe go check it out and see some of the amazing work coming out of her labs.
Sridhar: Yeah, and then, ambient interfaces. It's my favorite audio communication because when you communicate with a human, it's not just with voice. You know, there is touch. You know, there is smells. And long story short, the interfaces are going to get more and more natural. Many times when you're chatting with people on a website, when you want to buy something, you have an identity crisis. You know, you don't know whether it's a robot or it's a real human being that you're chatting to, and the biggest thing is, do you even care as long as you're getting the answer?
There used to be times when it was awfully frustrating, especially for a person like me, Poonacha. I have a very thick accent, and, you know, every time I would ask Siri something, I will get awfully frustrated, but now, I'm pretty happy to say, you know, Siri, Alexa, they all---
Poonacha: They know you!
Sridhar: Yeah! They know my accent, you know, which is---and my mother-in-law, basically, when she, you know, came to visit us, she would basically ask Alexa, you know, what the temperature was, and with her very thick South Indian accent, and, you know, she was comfortable having, you know, a smart speaker give her that information.
Sridhar: Long story short, I think we have come a long way. Our interfaces are going to be more and more ambient. AI is going to be everywhere, and, you know, the world of robotics is absolutely going to transform because you said that on going from cloud to the "edge", "edge" to the cloud. The thing that is happening in the world of robotics is, robotics used to be a vertically integrated system. You needed to do soup to nuts, but now it's a horizontally integrated system.
I could go buy a lighter module for navigation. I could take the safety critical functions of, you know, of another company, and I could put that together and integrate that with AWS for the cloud, and I could go get a bunch of developers to develop on, you know, Swift and Java and basically put an end-to-end system together.
So, you've moved from a world of vertical integration to horizontal integration. The same thing goes for machine intelligence too. So, this is absolutely going to accelerate across the board.
Poonacha: I love that, and this is the roadmap. There's nothing, to summarize, robotics, machine intelligence, and ambient interfaces. When I think about the design, you know, this is where I see, I think UI, UX, user interface, user experience will kind of transform into, I would say, object interfaces, ambient---how you design for the future.
People---I think designers today when I look at design, they're still stuck in the widget framework. Right? And we need to kind of rethink design. Technologists have to rethink what interface looks like. Interface has disappeared. The interface is a remnant. You know, when I was at Motorola, I thought, you know, having the thinnest keypad is the most important thing. It was called Moto RAZR. Right? It made me say, never ask the question: is making a phone call that important? Do I really need a keyboard? Right?
So I think there is going to be this innovation of ambient interfaces being more intimate, right? When I look at my parents who are now living in Coorg, in a coffee plantation, a pretty remote part of India, I would do anything to give them a hug, or I could do anything so I could feel their hug. Imagine. Imagine, I could ship them a jacket, and it---basically, a haptics, right? So what I could do, I could send them a hug emoji, and if they were---my mom was wearing the jacket, both of us are wearing the jacket, we could basically feel each other hugging ourselves. It is the next version of FaceTime, right?
So I think this haptic interface is going to make technology more intimate, right? Before I can say, 'now, I can see Sridhar. I can hear Sridhar.' The other question is: 'Can I touch Shridhar?' Right? And I think that's gonna be the step function when it comes into making interfaces more intimate.
Sridhar: Yeah! And, look, I mean, there's a few companies that started even taking these small steps. In cars, you know, in some of the new cars, when you actually, for safe driving, if you change lanes without putting on the, you know, indicator, have you seen the vibration of the wheel?
Sridhar: For example, right? So it's been in view. Like, long story short, I can give you a spectacular array of examples where haptics has already populated into the system, and it's going to get natural, and, you know, lo---I mean, that's going to keep accelerating across the board.
The thing that I also want to summarize is, you talked, you spoke about hope, Poonacha. Recessions are great equalizers, you know. Everything from a king to a commoner today, you know, can get infected. We have seen that. Similarly, we also spoke about how a person who has very few resources but has access to Amazon Web Services could start a company, do marketing on social media, and how a farmer in Africa or, you know, or a third world country basically can perform transactions with their mobile phone equal into a Western farmer, you know.
So long story short, you got to look at how, you know, post pandemic, what are the technologies that are going to help, you know, elevate the world and ease our poverty, go down significantly. In the last 15 years, we saw hunger going down in the last 15 years. Long story short, it's not all doom and gloom. So there is a place where, you know, humanities kind of like uplifting itself, you know. So I really think recessions, I would look at it as great equalizers.
Poonacha: And this is so important because if you have a dream and the desire, right? This could be the portal for you to kind of really thrive, right? So you really, today I think with the dream, people always dreamed, but then they are looking for those opportunities. So if your dream and desire is to really make a difference and an impact, as I always say, authenticity, integrity, and higher purpose.
Poonacha: Right? If you have a dream, which is authentic, and you have the integrity to follow through with it, which is your desire, and if it is not just about you, but it's about we, then that's a social, I 100% believe you will make a difference.
Sridhar: Another thing, recessions are great accelerators. So like, you know, like, gosh, for how long have we been toying with like telemedicine. Like, how long? It's like one shot, Mariucci, you know. There are so many apps, and it can accelerate. So look at this as an opportunity. If you are working on aspects of AI, you're doing amazing. If your field is in data science, you do, like, amazing because every CIO is now becoming a Chief Digital Officer, you know. We're going through a digital transformation. We spoke about digital, mobile, virtual, and personal. If you are in any of those fields, you're just going to accelerate through this portal.
The thing that I want to highlight is, institutions are going to go through a massive and a radical transformation. Education tech, it's amazing, you know, that education tech will go through a massive transformation, and, Poonacha, without naming names, how many educational institutions are sitting on massive assets, like prime real estate, with, you know, big funds? Nothing wrong. Nothing wrong.
But, you know, now, I really think a person who is, you know, sitting in Ukraine could get the same level of education, you know, with, you know, call centers, and other resources or MOOCS, you know, as you said, right? That's something that's possible.
And healthcare and bioinformatics is going to go through a massive transformation, like, for example, the Human Genome Project, how many people who have gone through COVID and come out successfully on the other side are donating their plasma, you know, of subjecting themselves to test, and genetics and modifications are new vaccines are much, much, much different in the structure.
So healthcare and bioinformatics will go through a massive transformation, in my opinion, but remember, this is something that we haven't touched, but you will see. One other trend that I have not spoken so far is on security issues. Every time institutions go through a change, anytime there are new technologies, anytime there are new products, you will always see, you know, new attack vectors from a security space because the more connected you are,
Poonacha: The more vulnerable.
Sridhar: Absolutely. So,
Poonacha: And I think this is a topic we should maybe have a follow up because you are, you know, you've done so much work with IoT/IoE, right? And today with all the ob---imagine objects, that's fine at home, imagine you are now with bionic, having, you know, artificial pancreas, and now, there is, you know, a denial of service attack on your organs, right?
So it's like you have this entire whole new other conversation which you can bring out the dark side of humanity. So we truly are focused on the lighter side and the compassionate side. So this is amazing!
Sridhar: You know what, I'll take you on it. I will put together a, you know, a bunch of material which will dovetail into this framework, and let's look at the attack vectors, and for that, Poonacha, I'll wear a black shirt. (Poonacha laughs) You know,
Poonacha: The black hat. The white hat and the black hat.
Sridhar: There you go. I mean, long story short is this was a conversation about equalizers and accelerators and hope and giving back to the world. We'll have a conversation on the other side of, you know, what does security, privacy, data integrity, non-repudiation aspects associated with security in another conversation in a couple of weeks or so.
Sridhar: But this is something that I didn't touch upon, and, you know, we'll have a conversation.
Poonacha: I think that's perfect.
Sridhar: So one more thing that I want to highlight, many offers, you know, with the education that we have, the privilege of being lucky, you know, we've been at the right place at the right time, you know, very privileged, and when you go through times of economic recession and depression, there's a world around us that's going through a massive, gut-wrenching change.
If you can do one thing that can help alleviate and give back, this is the time to do it, and, you know, the mantra that I truly, truly believe in now is, 'in every walk of life, in every conversation, in every relationship, if you can never take more than you can give, I think that'd be wonderful.' That's my only request. I have, you know, anytime I get a platform, please give more than you can take in these times because that's going to define who you are, and that's what we need to do as responsible human beings. So, that's all I had.
Poonacha: Thank you, Sir. I think with that, I have nothing more to say. I mean, let us really tread lightly, right? Let us give more than we take from this planet, in our social relationships, in our personal relationships.
And these are times when it's going to bring out the best in humanity, and the things we do is going to determine how our children, the next several generations, they'll say, 'what did this generation do? What did this generation of technologists do for the planet?'
So we are going to be measured, right? So let us kind of really set the stage, and for that, I'm really grateful, Sridhar, to have you today, and let's---more to come. More to come. Thank you.
Sridhar: Poonacha, thank you very much.
Poonacha: Thank you so much.
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