Info.: Anand Muglikar is CEO & Gardener at StomatoBot Technologies Pvt Ltd. He has done BE Electronics from VIT, Pune. Some of his major achievements include building single-handedly a Multi-projector Blending (something like a panoramic stitched view in real-time) Software with color and gamma matching, designing algorithms for automated segmentation of melanoma (skin cancer) moles, etc. Visit https://StomatoBot.com for details. He has been among the final 8 teams out of 350 applicant startups in eCell IIT Bombay’s eSummit Ten Minutes To Millions (TTMM) funding event. Link: http://inc42.com/buzz/ten-minutes-million-2/ and has been listed in YourStory Media’s Startups Profiles page: http://profiles.yourstory.com/companies/stomatobot.
Q1. What is StomatoBot?
StomatoBot is a word derived from a marine animal named Stomatopod (or Mantis Shrimp) and Robot. Its one of the most bad-ass animals we know. It defies logic in that it has one of the fastest preying speeds and generates the highest force per unit mass among known species. What makes it most special for us, is that it has the best biological vision, much better color vision than humans, thus having the most complex eyesight of any animal known. Interestingly, the visual information is processed by the eyes themselves, not the brain. Even more bizarre; each eye has “trinocular vision” and complete depth perception. Scientists are only starting to understand the mysteries of Stomatopod vision; for the moment, we can only imagine what the world really looks like to a mantis shrimp. Details here.
So, I dream of robots with similar vision, force and speed and thus formed my company named StomatoBot Technologies last year.
Right now, StomatoBot is engaged in a product:
1. To automate CCTV Surveillance
2. For proactive mobile alerts
3. In near-real-time***
Q2. What was the idea behind building StomatoBot?
The idea behind StomatoBot wasn’t like any single Eureka moment. It was a continuous and gradual process over a few years of learning all that is to in the space of Image Processing, Computer Vision and Machine Learning (which is still a work in progress) combined with being aware of current affairs and incidents in news.Such incidents wherein people are attacked or ladies are abused in full view of a CCTV camera and part of that CCTV footage is flashed all over the electronic media over the next few days, with the victims bodies/faces blurred for anonymity. All we can do while watching such news, is curse the perpetrators of the crime, curse the Government of the day and pray to God that we or our loved ones never have to face such a situation. Two such incidents which agitated me from within include the one where a teenage girl was molested on the streets of Guwahati by a group of close to 40 men and another one wherein a lady was attacked for money in a Bangalore ATM. I was fed up of being this arm-chair critic and a sitting duck, just waiting to react to every new incident and decided to start to do something about it. While I’m not done yet with the software I’m making, but as shipping is important too, the first version is almost ready and an Android app is being built as we speak. So, I’m looking at the release of the complete first version very soon in near future.
Q3. Can you describe some of the differences that you experienced in the working environment of your company and the corporate job?
In my company, I work on problems I want to solve, use the methods I deem right, use resources as and when I need without any delay in red-tapism or permissions and approvals. And corporates are afraid to take on the really big problems although they are sitting on a heap of human talent. I pity them for this. Except for a mostly guaranteed monthly salary, there is nothing a corporate job gave me. However, I believe its an addiction much like alcohol and drugs, which one should get rid of once one realizes it. I didn’t allow myself to pursue higher education or startup earlier all due to the complacency the monthly salary gave me.
Q4. How hard was it for you to build StomatoBot?
The struggle isn’t over yet! Its a long long journey for me and I’m all game for it. It was definitely excruciatingly tough decision of my life. I come from a middle class family with a monthly hand-to-mouth income and I was the sole breadwinner. Also frankly, I started StomatoBot after my wedding with some savings from my previous job. You need a lot of daring and support from your spouse to do that. I give all credit for wherever StomatoBot is and will be in future, to my loving wife Rajashri! Ever since starting up I think twice before even buying a chips packet. That’s how economical you have to be. I have regretted this (startup) decision many times and every time jumped back with more vigor and grit. The good thing is I know I’m not giving it up! 🙂
Q5. What kind of audience/users you are focusing on ?
My target users are everyone with a need for security, which makes it pretty much everyone. So, anyone who has or can afford a CCTV system automatically becomes my target audience. I’m initially targeting Jewellery shops and Bank ATMs as those people don’t need to be convinced much about how useful my software can be for them. Later on, Law Enforcement and Govt. Agencies would be my next target customers.
Q6. What are your views on the current surveillance systems installed by organizations?
They are incomplete and defunct! They don’t move an inch without human intervention. True that the installed CCTV cameras sense but they are yet to become eyes that see and observe. So, current systems are mechanical and lack even rudimentary common sense. Many a time, we come to know after an incident that a particular CCTV camera wasn’t even functioning. No humans were monitoring it’s footage 24×7 and the camera system couldn’t detect a basic malfunction. Current systems are only used for investigative (postmortem) purpose by police and sensationalizing (TRP) purpose by media. Under this system the police takes note of the CCTV footage roughly 2 days after media flashes it day in and day out. Till that time the perpetrator of the crime might have fled the country and the victim might have probably died.
All in all, its a sorry state of affairs!
Q7. After working in the stream of Image Processing from so many years, do you think Image processing technology can make a huge impact on the world? And in what way?
All animals who need locomotion developed a better brain, which obviously meant a better vision. The brain consumes one-fifth i.e. 20% of all the energy produced in our bodies, of which the vision system consumes one-fourth i.e. 25% of 20% means 5% of total energy. This is highly disproportionate to the size of our eyes. It is said “A picture is worth a thousand words” and “90% of all knowledge we gain is through our eyes”. We gained such beautiful eye sight via thousands of years of evolution and we still cannot see beyond the visual spectrum, which is a very minuscule set of wavelengths.
Now compare that to how we’ve applied image processing over the last half a century. We’ve come a really long way, especially so in the last decade alone. We’ve developed machines that can sense in almost the entire EM spectrum and methods to process all of that data. Combined with Machine Learning, Image Processing takes the formidable form of Computer Vision.
Loosely speaking, Image Processing + Machine Learning = Computer Vision Image processing takes input as an image and outputs an image. Machine Learning takes input as data and churns out useful insights or actionable information. Computer Vision takes input as images and outputs actionable information. Deep Learning takes massive amounts of data and almost mimics the brain’s (neural networks’) functioning to give out patterns and unimaginable insights.
After stating all this above context, I think I too have come a long way working in this field for many years and am ready to tackle one of the most challenging problems we’re facing today of responsible surveillance monitoring. Computer Vision (Image Processing) can make incredible impact on the security and productivity of mankind, with eyes (sensors) that can actually see throughout the EM spectrum and make sense of all of that data and render actionable deliverables to us. It will help us where we can’t go (yet) like inside disaster hit nuclear power plants or on other planets and stars, where we cannot see everything and it would take centuries for us to wade through the petabytes of CCTV footage, where the proverb finding a pin in a haystack couldn’t be more true.
So, only imagination is the limit to what we can do with Computer Vision (Image Processing).
Q8. How it all started ? Who all helped you out ? What is the story from ground level ?
It started when my mother passed away in 2013 and I was on the banks of Krushna river in Andhra Pradesh, a day before performing her last rites, in a dark room. I was crying uncontrollably and the next moment thought that I won’t continue crying now, else this wonderful life will be ruined. I wrote down few points for a product in utter darkness and those points form the cornerstone of what I’ve built now!
My sole supporters have been my mother Kavita, my inspiration and my wife Rajashri, my pillar of strength. I was also helped for my office address by my cousin Ajay.
The story from ground zero is that sheer determination and perseverance can take you places. It all starts with the belief in oneself and thoughts dreams in mind!
Q9. Currently how many people are working in StomatoBot?
Currently, we’re two directors and two co-founders, one R&D engineer and one adviser.
Q10. Any special experiences or things you learned during your stay in Kota?
I met people from all over India in Kota and learned that gritty hard work and education can transform an entire generation of a family. So, it can by extrapolation transform an entire country too. That no matter where you come from, where you’re going and what you’re doing is more important. That it is not just okay but glorious to even fail in great attempts and big dreams!