Exclusive Interaction with Dr. Ankur Narang, VP, AI & Data Technologies, Hike

March 24, 2020 0 comments

Social media platforms these days have garnered rapid traction as they become vast channels for businesses, entrepreneurs, and professionals that seek greater recognition at a very economical price. In the modern fast-moving world where nearly every person meeting is short on time, the significance of social media becomes inevitable. Also, social platforms are gaining enormous interest from users of all ages, enabling them to connect and interact with close peers or friends digitally. One such social networking platform working at the intersection of AI and art is Hike.

In an interview with Analytics Insight, Dr. Ankur Narang, VP, AI & Data Technologies, Hike shares how the company is creating a new future for social experiences as well as joyous social products.

 

How is Hike creating a new experience for consumers in 2020?

2020 at Hike is dedicated to doubling down on building new social experiences. This future empowers the user tremendously by creating joyful social products that are built around them and not the other way around. We are working towards evolving that tremendously, the first glimpse of this was unveiled with HikeLand. HikeLand is set to be a magical & safe place for users to hang out online with their closest relationships. HikeMoji seamlessly integrated into that and in the future will be the ID of our users in the virtual world Keeping this in mind, we started 2020 on a great note by officially rolling out the HikeMoji. It saw great traction in beta itself with more than 1 million HikeMojis created. This is, however, just the tip of the iceberg, in 2020 you will see us bring unique homegrown social experiences built at the intersection of Art & AI.

 

What is the peak usage time for the application?

Hike has always been a place for close friends and significant others. Our peak usage time also doesn’t come as a surprise to be between 10:30 PM and 12.30 AM, a time when our users are done with commitments of the day and are unwinding and hanging out at Hike with close peers.

 

What is Hikeland all about? What will it bring for the users?

We can’t reveal much at this point in time but we’re excited to bring a unique & engaging social experience to our users. We recently shared the first look of HikeLand, and HikeMoji is set to play a key role in the new virtual world we are building. HikeLand is also created at the unique intersection of art and AI, to offer a safe place in the form of virtual land for our users to hang out in and enable new shared experiences, bringing forth a unique dimension on hanging out online.

 

What are Hike’s investment plans in 2020?

As you may already know, in 2018, we made a transition from building a successful super app to championing multi-apps. As part of that transition, we unbundled the super app into two bets, Hike Sticker Chat & our investment in WinZO. In 2020, we are continuing our focus on these bets. Beyond what we announced last year, we will share any developments as and when they materialize.

  • Hike is an AI-led unicorn and operates at the intersection of AI and art. Hike is deeply invested and committed in enabling not just its product but the ecosystem further.
  • At Hike, AI is at the core and we truly believe that technology should wrap itself around people and not the other way around. AI is definitely leading the way to actualize this vision.
  • The world is also evolving at such a rapid pace, it’s only natural for social mediums to do so as well. We’ve seen that social connection is a core human need, important enough to dedicate a mission to and we’re excited to accomplish this with homegrown AI talent.
  • We’ve used AI in amazing ways to create a seamless way of exchanging expressions via multilingual sticker recommendation, friend recommendation using SNA and deep learning, real-time fraud analytics using anomaly detection, campaign tuning, hyper-personalisation and optimization and sticker processing using vision models and graphics.
  • Our areas of research and application include Natural Language Processing (NLP), Computer Vision and Social Network Analysis (SNA).
  • It’s also interesting to note that Hike is the only player that is using NLP to solve for local languages across local markets.
  • Top 3 patent filer in the country.

 

How to create on-device ML apps

  • With AI and ML at the core of Hike, we’re pushing the boundaries and re-imagining a new social future. From building radically unique products at the intersection of Product, Design, Engineering and Art to cutting-edge work across NLP, Computer Vision and more—we’ve used ML in interesting ways at Hike to scale expressions like never before.
  • We believe that advancements in tech are now enabling Hike to actualise the vision of building a social future and creating customised experiences for the users. This principle lets us push ML models on the device to help users find right stickers at the right time and this is only possible because of 4G and better smartphones.

 

Hike launches avatars with HikeMoji

  • Hike, launched last quarter HikeMoji, an incredibly personal way for users to bring their funnest, most expressive selves online. With over 1000+ hairstyles, facial features, Bindis, local clothing, nose pins & more to choose from, users can make their HikeMoji truly their own.
  • Users also get 100+ exclusive stickers of their HikeMoji in any of the 7 regional languages available in Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali, Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, and Malayalam – in addition to English and Hindi. With this, HikeMoji becomes the first & only made in India hyperlocal avatar that is customizable with local components & languages.

 

AI’s role in enabling the HikeMoji experience

  • Computer Vision & Deep Neural Networks enable the platform to search around 100 trillion combinations of facial shape and color features to create a HikeMoji & HikeMoji Stickers reflecting the user’s looks within seconds.
  • Machine Learning (ML) & Natural Language Processing (NLP) also play a key role in enabling users to easily discover their HikeMoji Stickers.

 

Art & AI – a unique combination 

  • Hike is also one of the only tech companies that also has a huge focus on art which enables it to create an incredible hyperlocal experience.
  • HikeMoji uses hyperlocal elements to reflect a relatable ethnic identity to the emojis.
  • What’s unique to Hike is that the artwork across has an essential Indian feel. From colors, design schemes and personalized nuances, it all comes to life with hand-drawn elements to maintain high quality.

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