Team member of a crucial artificial intelligence project at Darwin Ecosystem. Keynote speaker at Apple and IBM. Coding guru to 20,000 plus beginner coders. And yes, only 13 years old.
Tanmay Bakshi wasn’t even a teenager and had already earned a list of titles – Software/Cognitive Developer, Algorithmist, Author and Keynote Speaker. Now, 13 years old, Bakshi is striding ahead of individuals well beyond his age group by doing what he enjoys most – coding and programming. “I also get to do what I love to do the most – and that is to learn, develop, and share my knowledge through many different media [platforms],” says Bakshi who recently collaborated with Darwin Ecosystem, an artificial intelligence (AI) design firm, on a project called ‘The Cognitive Story’.
The project, aiming to equip individuals with limited communication abilities with artificial communication tools, is described as “ground-breaking” by Darwin Ecosystem as it sets to make a drastic difference in the life of a quadriplegic girl residing in Northern Ontario named Boo. “Our goal is to partially restore that (communication) ability via a custom system which uses EEG (electroencephalogram) brainwave data. It’s then my part to use deep learning algorithms that I design and implement, to try and understand what Boo is communicating,” explains the home-schooled ninth grader.
For Bakshi, the youngest member on ‘The Cognitive Story’ team, the project webs a fantastic opportunity to not only make a difference in lives of people like Boo, but also allows him to work with geniuses such as Timothy Duncan, an IBM Bluemix representative, and AI-Guru, Thierry Hubert, who is the CEO at Darwin Ecosystem. “I was inducted into the team as an Algorithmist for ‘The Cognitive Story’ project, and we are going to expand this to many other projects as well!” he finishes excitedly.
Contributing to the larger society seems a motive Bakshi has grown up nurturing. In 2012, when he created his own YouTube channel, Tanmay Teaches, he laid the foundation of his goal to train 100,000 children around the world with coding skills. More than 22,000 subscribers learn coding directly from Bakshi. His viewers also send him challenges they face in their practice, sometimes in foreign languages. “Sometimes I get questions in different languages that I am not familiar with, for example, Italian and Chinese, so I then go ahead and use a translator to understand the question and translate my answer back. Of course, it’s completely worth it because helping people feels really great! Another question that I get often, which I find challenging in this mission, is if I can provide the resources (e.g. the actual hardware or computers) for them to start programming.”
Bakshi was only five years old when he started writing codes. Attentively, he would watch his father insert codes on the screen and be amazed seeing the computer react magically. In 2013, when he was only nine, Apple accepted his application, tTables, in their App store. The app helps children learn multiplication and comes armed with sounds effects that either applaud a correct answer or hiss a bee buzz for an incorrect response.
A major breakthrough came in 2015 when Bakshi released his first Watson video, talking about ‘Retrieve and Rank Service’. “I then went ahead and created ‘AskTanmay’ the very first Watson project of mine that got noticed by IBM.” In fact, AskTanmay is the world’s first web-based NLQA (Natural Language Question-Answering) system to be powered by IBM Watson.
In 2016, IBM invited Bakshi as one of their Keynote Speakers and had him demonstrate AskTanmay at InterConnect 2016, making the entire experience his most defining moment so far. The tech giant was the first company to involve Bakshi on significant projects and continues to do so.
With strong family support and mentors such as Hubert and Duncan, there is hardly anything that can dawdle the pace of this young and focused genius. “I’ll keep working towards my goal of reaching out to and helping 100,000 aspiring coders in their journey of learning. I wish to continue working towards advancing machine learning algorithms, and use that technology in fields like healthcare to not only save, but also augment human life,” Bakshi exclaims confidently.
PHOTOS: Tanmay Bakshi/Twitter, Darwin Ecosystem/ Twitter, @Ed-DISRUPTED