Interview with Claudio Mirti, Principal Solution Specialist – Data & AI, Microsoft
Claudio Mirti, Principal Solution Specialist – Data & AI at Microsoft will be speaking at Corporate Parity’s upcoming 5th Annual R&D Innovation, Product Development & Design Thinking Summit.
Claudio is passionate about AI, seeing its potential to improve quality of life, redefine limits and empower humans to accomplish more. He is committed to applying principles of Design Thinking and a customer-focused strategic approach to create innovative solutions, while taking advantage of new technologies. He also teaches Digital Business Development courses at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland and New York University, with focus on Design Thinking, AI and Chatbots.
We talked with Claudio about the recent trends surrounding AI and Design Thinking, the reality behind the hype, and his expectations for the future.
Read the full interview below:
Design Thinking has recently become a buzzword in innovation departments and teams, and there are many different definitions for it. What does DT mean to you?
Design Thinking is a methodology to trigger innovation. It affects all steps of idea creation, starting from observing to ideation and on to the prototyping, and generates fast results. However, DT doesn’t magically change everything for the better. It needs people who are willing to step out of the comfort zone to create new ideas.
What is the link between AI and Design Thinking?
The human-centred approach. Innovation is based on a human-centred approach that addresses the needs of the people through the right use of technology. This goes for AI as well as DT.
AI is becoming a buzzword, like Design Thinking. Everyone is talking about AI or wants to have AI to profit from its benefits. That’s fine, but how do you get started? AI has had its ups and downs, going back many decades. But what’s different now? Three innovations have finally put AI on the fast track: Big Data, with the internet and sensors everywhere; massive computing power, especially through the Cloud; and the development of breakthrough algorithms, so computers can be trained to accomplish more sophisticated tasks on their own with deep learning.
Still, it’s real secret for success is the human-centred approach.
When talking about the combination of DT and AI, is it a combination of machine efficiency with human creativity, and is one impossible without the other?
Yes, DT and AI combines machine efficiency and human creativity. Many people have concerns about AI replacing human creativity. The best way to comfort them is to make them understand AI – what’s behind it and how we can use it. This knowledge gives the power to decide in what area we want to amplify human ingenuity with intelligent technology.
When it comes to Design Thinking and the creative process, AI will simply be emphasizing human creativity with more efficient technology, rather than replacing it.
How does AI enhance Design Thinking, and vice versa?
New technologies like AI offer new opportunities for solutions. DT is the methodology that helps to outline the steps and define the ways in which you’re going to create the solution. Starting with mapping the customer journey, defining who will be using that service enhanced with intelligent technology, or who will benefit and gain value from it. Maybe it will save time or help getting some more insights at the end. When you start, you have to first ask some questions like: “Do we have the right data, and how do we use it during the creation process?” The highest value in AI enhancing Design Thinking is, using Cognitive Services as an example, a set of machine learning algorithms that helps to move from concept to reality.
Always keeping in mind the three constraints for success, like Feasibility, Viability and Desirability, we can use it to build the foundation for DT.
(Read more about AI enhancing Design Thinking using design guidelines).
Can you tell us about a recent application case of the DT process together with AI?
I cannot mention the names, but an example could be the following: imagine there is a process for patients who are not able to get an appointment with the doctor, or they want to inform the doctor that they don’t feel so well, then they can use an application. If a patient would start to have some problems, if he has a disease and needs treatment, he can make an appointment through an AI-powered digital assistant. The digital assistant can start the process by asking the right questions, same as the ones a doctor would typically ask, and define the problem. The digital assistant would then make an appointment, assigning the patient to the right specialist. Thus, the process can be simplified and handed over to technology.
Additionally, images can be used after an X-Ray to help healthcare professionals make faster decisions, because they have the right data and clarity, and can run some tests based on the data they had before, thus being able to track the whole lifecycle of the patient.
Do you predict the conflation of AI and DT to become more widespread in the future? What industries do you see this impacting?
AI and DT are two different things. However, for every innovation like AI you need a methodology, like DT. In my opinion, Design Thinking helps to make innovation faster and more accessible, also for developers who are using the technology. DT will help to leverage flexible tools or machine learning to gain insights, as well as to support the business outcome and make it more ready for the digital future. So, I think the combination of AI and DT could make innovation faster and more tangible, and will therefore be more widespread in the future.
Based on the last report by Stanford University, the biggest impact of the usage of Artificial Intelligence will be seen in education, transportation, health care and manufacturing. Then you have the retail industry, which is also widely using AI and DT to improve the process.
This is especially interesting in relation to education industry, do you think the application of AI and DT can fully transform the education system?
Yes, absolutely, but this won’t happen overnight. Throughout history, humans have both shaped and adapted to new technologies. But the advances in AI technologies will be developed and fielded gradually—not in sudden, unexpected jumps in the techniques themselves—and will
build on what exists today, making this adaptation easier. On the other hand, small improvements to techniques, computing power, or availability of data can occasionally lead to novel, game-changing applications.
There are still a lot of misconceptions about AI, and many people are still scared of it, thinking that super-intelligent robots will come to replace humans. How do you see this future development, do you think there will be new career opportunities or entire new professions created by this evolving technology?
AI systems will take over certain tasks and will affect people’s affordances and capabilities. Still, humans and AI systems have complementary abilities. Therefore, I think some jobs will disappear, but in general I think that jobs will change. That means new roles and opportunities.
What is the significance of your topic at 5thAnnual R&D / Design Thinking summit? (DESIGN THINKING WITH AI: HOW TO MAKE PRODUCTS, GOODS & SERVICES MORE INTELLIGENT)
I will talk about how Design Thinking enables AI projects: AI has the potential to empower us all to accomplish more, drive better business outcomes, and achieve breakthroughs that redefine what’s possible. Moreover, I will outline how AI profits off the human-centred approach Design Thinking offers.
What are your expectations for this event?
My expectation for this event is to motivate people to use new technology. I am looking forward to fruitful discussions and inspiring inputs.
Click here to read Claudio Mirti’s article on the practical application of Design Thinking principles.
For more information about the Summit, visit our website.