Monday, February 15, 2016

Interview with Borui Wang, CEO/Founder of Polarr

Borui, who are you?

I'm the founder and CEO of Polarr. I graduated from Stanford studying Human Computer Interaction and Artificial Intelligence. I love photography and subjects that link art and technology together. 

What does Polarr do?

Polarr makes thing pretty at scale. We build the best tools and services to beautify the world's images. 

What caused you to start Polarr?

I want to work on something I care about and I love building tools for others to enjoy and use. My passion for photography makes it difficult for me to get bored working on photography related concepts. I think Polarr's mission makes me feel more connected to my passion and the people who use our products and services. 

What makes Polarr an AI startup?

AI is everywhere. Is there any new software startup that doesn't have an AI component in their road map? For the real though, our team has several experts in ML and AI is a huge component in computer vision and computer image analysis. To make things pretty at scale, we've developed a range of algorithms to understand how people edit image and try to incorporate machines to better assist people and eventually replace people for most mundane tasks. None of these modules are in our products yet, but they will slowly show up in our future product offerings soon. 

Describe Polarr's AI.

We are in the process of building systems to enhance images automatically at massive scale, with high quality data learned from millions of pro photographers using our photo editor. It will take a lot of tuning and proper data ingestion and pruning, and we believe we've nailed most of the process and workflow now. 
How do you measure and communicate the quality of your AI?
We compare our machine results with human results and mark visual quality from a group of experts, and we have an internal system built just for visual benchmarking. 

Can you share something awesome that your AI has done or that you have been able to do with your AI that would surprise most people?

How about I tell you we know how likely your photo is going to be liked by a lot of people or even win a photo competition ? : P
 
When you talk to investors, do they care about your AI or do they care that you are solving a business problem? How about customers? How about the media?

The investors obviously care a lot about the AI component as that's our core tech and IP of the company. However, they won't care about the AI part so much if it doesn't eventually solve a massive business problem.

Why is there so much excitement about AI startups?

AI is eating the world. It decides what we eat, who we date, and where we go for vacation. I think the opportunity is vast and profound and people haven't completely grasped the potential and what it is yet, therefore a lot of excitement for the unknown. On the other side of this - the humanity and social science research of AI is also a relatively new subject and is barely explored. In movies and pop culture we see the growing interest in robotics and machine intelligence - it seems to be something humanity in general cares and wonders about. 

Where do you go to get information about AI startups?

I read hacker news as much as I can to stay on top of discussion in startups in general and often time AI startups in general. I also pay attention to papers from top conferences in AI, especially in NLP, Deep Learning, Computer Vision and pay attention to what researchers spent their time on. A lot of AI startups grow out of research. 
 
Make a prediction about the future of AI startups.

There will be huge disappointments because the public expectation of AI is often different from what it is and what it actually could do, but there will eventually be a major leap and break through that surprises and even scares people. For startups, funding will still be sufficient as long as the AI is solving a real world problem.

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