11/30/2016 06:53 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Cognitive Business: Inside The Mind Of A Natural User Experience AI Expert

In this Cognitive Business interview, we talk with Tim Huckaby, founder of InterKnowlogy, Microsoft Gold Partner, and a Carlsbad City company that creates apps for AR/VR and mixed reality driven by touch, gesture, voice, holographic experiences, and artificial intelligence (AI).


Source: InterKnowlogy


Before we jump into our Q & A, I’m compelled to share that Tim’s parents are English teachers, he loves Fly Fishing and his team invented volleypong - what happens when ping pong meets volleyball.


Source: InterKnowlogy


Alright. So, tell me a little bit more about you and InterKnowlogy?

Our bread and butter is the Natural User Experience (NUI) where we make digital experiences much more natural.  We do that in many digital environments including Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (MR / holographic experiences) with machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI). The Interknowlogy team works with top tech companies - like Microsoft, and those other giants in the silicon valley - and we create solutions that provide amazing experiences for the user. Giant touch screens, connect devices, gesturing, interactive holograms, and voice detection tech is all part of the stuff we do.

Everyone in the free world has seen the Interactive map of the United States that CNN uses in its live TV broadcast. The application that John King, Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer use for the US presidential election. That’s us.

Can you tell us about what’s coming down the pipeline?

I can tell you that we’re building software that will revolutionize vertical industries. This tech will include mixed reality, interactive holographic experiences, completely immersive experiences, among other things.

Does this software include Microsoft’s HoloLens and Facebook’s Oculus Rift?

And so much more.

Taking a step back. How do you define a Natural User Experience and why is it important to AI?

Natural User Interfaces include waving at it, touching it, and speaking to it and more.  NUI even includes thinking at it.  These experiences are manifested in AI, but also in holographic interfaces and haptic interfaces. We’re designing the natural user interfaces that make this tech possible.

Can you share an example of the technology involved in a natural user experience with a neural interface?

Picture a quadriplegic in a wheelchair thinking at his chair to move correctly. That’s it. That’s the world I want to live in.

Other examples include gesturing at holographic images facilitating interaction. Imagine you are standing in front of a large screen of Converse shoes, you wave right at the screen to rotate through the choices of shoes and gesture to select a particular shoe.  We have already built that one.  

“Within a few years, waving to a computer and interactive holographic experiences will become the norm.” - Tim Huckaby

Can you tell us more about your involvement with Microsoft’s HoloLens and AI?

Currently, we’re working on a number of holographic projects with the Microsoft HoloLens.  To me, the most exciting is an interactive holographic experience that allows the user to build a molecule allowing them to dynamically walk into a a giant 3D version of molecule, manipulate its construction in real time, and then have the ability to effectively 3D print it for drug testing and trials in cancer research. We actually had a scientist who is a molecular biologist give our prototype a go and fighting back tears told me, “This is going to change the world.”

That’s super cool. Tell us about the importance of AI data visualization.

Well, there is so much data and it’s so overwhelmingly complex to look at it in its raw state.  if we’re able to visualize data, we can create holographic experiences and manipulate with that data to then abstract insights. In the case of the molecule manipulation, 3D print antidotes to major illnesses, like cancer.

In the case of the Consumer Product Group industry, capturing data and leveraging AI can help companies define their sales and marketing strategies. For example, our giant CPG customer used our tech and picked up that in Chicago millennial Asians like to buy Perrier between 3 and 5PM in the latter part of the week. That’s gold for the bottom line!

“No matter how smart you are, it’s easier to consume data that’s been organized through machine learning and visualized.” - Tim Huckaby

What are the tech integration challenges AI faces?

There are no integration problems of significance in the AI world. The challenge is finding real engineers to help build these dreams into realities.

What trends do you see AI facing in the near future?

Currently we’re constrained and confined to wearing a pair of glasses (e.g. HoloLens, Google Glasses, Oculus Rift, etc.) but in the trajectory of technology we will experience AI in the real world - with no need of glasses! The room will provide the experience.  It’s only a matter of time - tech is getting faster and cheaper and I’m convinced a super battery invention is around the corner.

What are the most exciting AI predictions you can think of?

A few use cases come to mind:

  1. We’re ultimately going to point our phone to a mountain or forest and it's going to show us the animals that are around in augmented reality.
  2. Paraplegics, MS, the blind, etc. will become just as effective and productive as those of us who do have control of our bodies.
  3. We’ll be able to create and produce customized medicines that will make cancer a managed disease in addition to tackling some other diseases, like those of the brain, cerebral palsy, Alzheimer’s, etc..

Having worked for or with Microsoft for over 25 years, I have to ask: what advice do you have for Satya Nadella?

Old friend, let’s talk about HoloLens. You already have the world’s best technical folks involved from Microsoft Research and other technical groups within Microsoft.  Now you need the business folks to catapult that organization into the powerhouse that focuses on emerging experiences!  Sell the HoloLens cheap, at a consumer prices, grow the adoption rates, and we’ll build the ecosystem it requires.  

To this, I can imagine Satya turning to me and saying, “I’m way ahead of you…”

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Come visit me and the InterKnowlogy team here. You’re invited to the next Volleypong game.  But, you may just get a welt on your arm like you did Lolita.

“Cognitive Business” is an interview series featuring awesome people in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) world. Written by Lolita Taub and written for business people.