Empowering the Next Generation of AI Technicians (Part 2)

Miku Hirano, CEO of Cinnamon.

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A University of Tokyo Graduate School Alumna, she founded “Naked Technology” as a Student. She has developed and managed a UI middleware for iOS, Android, and “Garakei” phones. After selling this company to mixi in 2011, she founded Cinnamon in Singapore in 2012, and later expanded into Vietnam and Thailand. Aimingto be the number 1 visual private communications service in Asia, she has delved into more Artificial Intelligence (AI) businesses, including establishing and managing the video app Tuya.

In this first interview, she opens up about her background and visions for AI powered Businesses.

Read Part 1 Here.

Tell me a bit about the effects your services can have on companies you work with.Hirano: One example that we are currently developing at Cinnamon is a chatbot as a recruitment tool. A chatbot automates communications and can substitute for people in running associated programs or systems. It was only in spring of 2016 that chatbots became commonly among ordinary consumers in Japan. With a chatbot simple things like adjusting appointments become automated. In the recruitment industry, it typically takes about 3~5 back and forth exchanges between applicants and companies to schedule an interview date, but with the automated system it would only take about 30 minutes. Moreover, by leaving tasks like this to be automated by AI, then people can focus on jobs that can only be done by humans. In the future, AI could register the company’s characteristics and the applicant’s resume and qualifications to automatically match applicants to companies, or give interview reminders and advice to the applicant. AI still has a lot of unexplored potential.There are plenty of simple communication tasks, like making appointments, in other industries as well. Say for example, in the medical field, a patient says “my stomach hurts”, a chatbot can conduct simple examinations by asking questions such as “since when?” and “what did you eat yesterday?”. That way patients won’t have to go through the long wait to see a doctor if the diagnosis is as simple as “wait a few days to see how it feels” or “go to such and such specialized hospital”. Especially if a child suddenly feels ill in the middle of the night, by consulting with a chatbot they can know exactly where they need to go or what they need to do next. I believe this will also alleviate the burden on the shortage of doctors. Not only in the medical field, but I believe specialized AI can really benefit professions such as legal consultation or tax consultation.Wow, chatbots have a lot of utility! What kinds of industries do you think AI can expand into?Hirano: I believe marketing can benefit greatly from AI. I don’t believe many companies are in the habit of conducting thorough AB tests on systems outside of their company. However by conducting a thorough as possible AB test, I believe sales will start to change significantly. For example, in publishing, the cover of a book will drastically influence its sales. By leaving AB testing up to AI, factors such as lettering, font, color can be thoroughly tested to investigate what type of cover will resonate with customers the most, and in a timely fashion.Are you looking to expand internationally?Hirano: One of the benefits of having strong government authority in Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam, Singapore, and Thailand, is that if the government gives the go ahead for a service to be implemented, it will be implemented immediately. This is a huge contrast with Japan who cannot seem to implement UBER due to various regulations. With regards to international expansion, I believe that Southeast Asia is a treasure trove. Once we’re able to develop a solid AI system, I believe it will expand into other countries, which ultimately, in the future, could contribute significantly to increasing Japans GDP.How did you develop such a sharp strategic sense?Hirano: When I was working in Southeast Asia as an Entrepreneur, through my interactions with local officials and government fund officials, I realized that there was huge potential in Southeast Asia. I was able to gain knowledge and information that you can only get from physically living there and talking to the local people. Therefore I would say that my leaving Japan and experiencing the true conditions in countries abroad, and talking to the local people is what fostered this sense in me.Can you tell me about your vision for the future of Cinnamon?Hirano: Since we’re currently training many AI business specialists, I would like to accelerate this process and send these talented individuals into the various industries we work with. In 5 years’ time we would have close to 100 specialists in several different business fields, so like an incubator, I would like to contribute to fostering talent among large companies, government funds, and Start Ups. Moreover, currently people do not completely understand or have interest in AI, and so I would like to develop a medium to educate people on how AI can improve businesses and how valuable people who are educated in AI are. We still have a lot of work to do to increase AI usage in Japan and the world, but I am very excited for what the future holds.