Meet the people who help our clients design and build innovative technology solutions to benefit their businesses as well as their customers: our subject matter experts aka SMEs. In this series, we’ll discover how they came to work in the industry and the changing role of technology in our lives. We’ll also get a glimpse into what makes them tick as people outside of work.
This week, we’re joined by Radu Orghidan, our VP Cognitive Computing, who is based in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Radu has been passionate about what we can do with computers from a young age and never gets bored of delving into new technology.
Great to have you here, Radu. What has brought you into the tech industry and the Machine Learning / Artificial Intelligence expertise?
I remember vividly the first computers I saw in communist Romania, in a local technical club of my hometown, Cluj-Napoca. There were several HC85 computers, fascinating black boxes (literally!) tethered to ordinary CRT television screens and running on the CP/M operating system. A couple of years spent in the Pioneers Club allowed me to dip my toes into the world of programming, acquainting myself with Basic and enjoying games loaded from magnetic tapes.
Fast-forwarding eight years, this interest culminated in me earning degrees from the Informatics High School and the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca, followed by a doctoral grant at the University of Girona in Spain. It was there that I implemented my first machine learning algorithms for curve-fitting to determine the parameters of a mirror, which was used to augment the field of view of a camera for robotic navigation within the lab. My postdoctoral journey allowed me to delve deeper into the realm of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), leading to the publication of papers in the field of computer vision.
It seems I’ve come a long way from loading games from magnetic tapes to programming AI. It’s a bit like going from riding a tricycle to piloting a spaceship! And while there are no games to load on AI, it does sometimes feel like it’s playing games with us. It’s certainly a thrilling ride, even if the spaceship is sometimes hard to steer.
What has been the biggest innovation since you have been working in the industry?
If you had asked me this question a few years ago, my response would have unequivocally been: deep learning. The triumph of AlexNet in an image recognition competition was a watershed moment, ushering in a new era in a realm where traditional computer vision methodologies were making only incremental strides. The astounding performance of AlexNet was indeed the talk of the town in our industry.
However, the advent of generative AI has led me to revise my professional leaderboard of transformative technological breakthroughs. The impact of this development cannot be overstated. The emergence of Large Language Models and image generators is laying the groundwork for advancements towards Artificial General Intelligence, making it the most significant innovation in my purview since I commenced my journey in this industry.
And as we stride towards this future, let me leave you with a lighter note. As we equip machines with the ability to generate human-like text and realistic images, we might soon find ourselves in a world where our pets get more likes on their AI-generated social media posts than we do on ours! It’s an exciting time to be in the field, even if it does feel a little like we’re working ourselves out of a job.
Indeed, generative AI has been the talk of the town in the past months. What is the biggest challenge and what the biggest opportunity for businesses when it comes to using AI?
Generative AI, undoubtedly, has become a focal point of conversation, leading to an intriguing mix of optimism and apprehension. The biggest challenge businesses face when it comes to implementing AI lies in the realm of data privacy and ethical considerations. As AI systems become increasingly sophisticated, they require vast amounts of data to function optimally. This data often includes sensitive information which, if mishandled, could lead to significant privacy breaches. Coupled with this is the concern of AI systems potentially making decisions that may not align with human values, ethics or legal norms. It’s a complex issue requiring substantial ongoing dialogue, robust governance structures and stringent regulatory compliance.
However, with these challenges also come immense opportunities. Generative AI, in particular, has the potential to revolutionise the way businesses operate. The biggest opportunity lies in the automation and enhancement of creative processes. Be it content creation, design work, product innovation or even decision-making, generative AI can provide businesses with tools that not only increase efficiency but also elevate the output quality. This will enable businesses to unlock untapped potential in various fields, leading to improved products, services, and ultimately, customer satisfaction. Essentially, while AI does pose certain challenges, if harnessed judiciously, it could usher in an era of unprecedented business innovation and growth.
Looking at your career so far, what is a project you are especially proud of and why?
Throughout my career, I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with a team of gifted peers to develop a range of innovative proofs of concept. My professional journey has taken me through a diverse array of fields, including computer vision applications, mobile robot navigation, 3D scene reconstruction and educational platform development. I’ve found a deep sense of satisfaction in each of these ventures.
However, if I were pressed to single out one project that holds a special place in my professional portfolio, it would be the development of an autonomous drone. This drone was engineered to circumnavigate cell tower masts, capturing various measurements while simultaneously reconstructing a 3D model of the surrounding environment. There was something profoundly inspiring about watching this airborne machine, this ‘flying computer’ if you will, create a tangible model of reality before our very eyes. It was akin to observing a giant spider weaving its intricate web. Moreover, our ‘flying spider’ had the ability to ply its craft anywhere on the globe.
As our Vice President Cognitive Computing, please allow us the question: how would you explain what Cognitive Computing is to non-experts? And what is its potential?
Cognitive computing is essentially an offshoot of artificial intelligence that strives to mimic human cognitive functions. In layman’s terms, it’s like giving a computer a brain of its own, enabling it to understand, learn and make decisions much like we humans do. Imagine your computer or smartphone not just following your commands but also understanding them, learning from your behaviours and making decisions based on that learning. It’s like having a personal assistant who not only takes notes but also gives you insights!
The potential of cognitive computing is immense and exciting. It can revolutionise industries, from healthcare to finance, by making sense of vast amounts of data in real time, identifying patterns and making predictions. In healthcare, for instance, cognitive computing could analyse a patient’s symptoms and medical history as well as the latest medical research to assist doctors in diagnosing and treating diseases. In finance, it could provide real-time analysis of market trends, helping investors make informed decisions.
With cognitive computing, our computers might soon know us better than we know ourselves. Perhaps it’s time we started being nicer to them – after all, they could be the ones recommending our next movie or even our next job!
Moving on to some more personal questions… who would be your 5 famous dinner party guests – real or fictional?
- Max Tegmark – Amazing thinker and writer
- Tom Hanks – Great actor
- K. Rowling – Imaginative writer
- Salvador Dali – One of my favourite artists
- Old Shatterhand – A strong character from my favourite childhood book, Winnetou
What topic could you give a 20-minute presentation on without any preparation?
I could talk anytime about computer vision (especially camera calibration) and about motorcycle trips.
What was something you thought would be easy until you tried it?
Finally, would you share a favourite quote with us to send our readers off with some inspiration?
“Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar” is a beautiful line from a poem by Antonio Machado, a renowned Spanish poet. In English, the line translates to: “Walker, there is no path, the path is made by walking.”
This phrase is often interpreted as a metaphor for life and personal growth. It suggests that there’s no predetermined path or roadmap for one’s life journey. Instead, each individual creates their own path through their actions, decisions and experiences. It emphasises the importance of forging one’s own way, rather than seeking to follow a pre-established route.
Big thanks to Radu for sharing his thoughts, insights and experience with us! Stay tuned for more insights into the work and life of Endavans in the next parts of our Meet the SME series.
VP Cognitive ComputingRadu is passionate about understanding the inner mechanisms of innovation and using them to solve business challenges through cloud and on-premises cognitive computing systems. He is currently focused on machine learning and generative AI to create systems that enhance users’ ability to understand and interact with the physical and digital reality. In Endava, Radu is also looking at strategic approaches to align novel technical tools with business goals. In his free time, Radu is a keen motorcycle rider and loves spending time with his family.
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