HomeAIFrom LEGO competitions to DeepMind's robotics lab

From LEGO competitions to DeepMind’s robotics lab

At this time’s publish is all about Akhil Raju, a software program engineer on the robotics workforce. We initially met Akhil in season two of DeepMind: The Podcast, however we wished to get to know him higher and listen to extra about his path to DeepMind.

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What sparked your curiosity in synthetic intelligence (AI)?

After I was younger, I considered AI in the identical method I considered magic. Sure, I wished to hang around with R2-D2 and Optimus Prime – however I additionally wished to go to Hogwarts. That was till I turned 12 and began collaborating in LEGO robotics competitions. At that second, I discovered that robots weren’t a fantasy or one thing that would solely exist within the far future, however slightly one thing that might be created within the current. Additionally, it seems that taking part in with robots is extremely enjoyable.

What got here subsequent?

Loads! From there I continued with robotics competitions, began college at MIT, and spent lots of time learning laptop science with a deal with robotics. After commencement, I fully pivoted away from the sector and joined a startup in San Francisco for a couple of years earlier than shifting to Google.

It was nice however I might at all times wished to reside overseas so I began taking a look at alternatives outdoors the US. At that time, I made a decision to maneuver to London and set my sights on DeepMind. I really didn’t suppose DeepMind employed folks with out PhDs, however I gave it a shot and it labored out!

As a result of I used to be doing a switch from Google to DeepMind, I used to be in a position to apply to a number of groups on the similar time. The robotics workforce wasn’t on my radar till my recruiter requested me, “By the way in which, you might have bits of robotics in your resume. Have you considered becoming a member of our robotics workforce?” I bit on the alternative. And actually, it’s been wonderful ever since.

Are you able to stroll us by means of a typical day? What’s your schedule like?

Each morning I head into the workplace for breakfast, the place with out fail, my teammates already are. It’s turn into part of our day by day routine to have breakfast collectively earlier than leaping into our work.

I spend most mornings within the robotics lab, fixing failures from earlier experiments or establishing new robots. Even when there’s not a lot to be performed, I get vitality from simply strolling round and seeing our robots at work, listening to the hum of the machines and motors. We’ve grown so much over the previous few years, and you’ll really feel it whereas strolling round our area.

My afternoons are a mixture of conferences, coding and – now that most individuals are again within the workplace – an impromptu chat or two. That’s considered one of my favorite elements of being within the workplace – the random catch-ups and whiteboard classes that assist me be taught and transfer shortly. From there I’ll take a fast snack break, and if the climate is sweet, head to the balcony to atone for a few of my favorite US sports activities podcasts (I nonetheless haven’t made the change from soccer to soccer). Then I’ll code a short while longer.

What’s it like behind the scenes at DeepMind?

The tradition at DeepMind is among the greatest elements of being right here. From my perspective, we’ve discovered a pleasant steadiness between a college, start-up, and huge firm. Many of the work tradition comes from the primary two.

It’s common to seek out folks brainstorming in entrance of whiteboards with maths scrawled throughout it, or somebody tucked away in a quiet nook studying the most recent analysis papers. Just like a start-up, there’s a palpable vitality all through – you possibly can actually really feel everybody’s pleasure.

It might be cliché, however whenever you love what you do it would not really feel like work. The robotics workforce is a miniature model of all of this, with the bonus that many people are shut mates outdoors of labor, too. It’s excellent.

How was working from house in the course of the pandemic?

Like most individuals, I spent the primary month of the pandemic in disbelief, assuming we’d be again to regular quickly. Nearly all of our conferences and collaborations moved on-line which was an fascinating expertise for our workforce specifically.

As soon as the realisation set in that we had been on this for the lengthy haul, I made a decision to spend my new-found free time to higher myself. I attempted a bunch of hobbies – lengthy sufficient in every case to say I’d tried it, however not lengthy sufficient for something to stay. I had my guitar section, a cooking section, and even a puzzle section, however my favorite was the tie-dye section. There have been a couple of weeks the place I tie-dyed all the things, from shirts to shorts to socks, and now they sit on the backside of my closet (the place they actually belong).

What sort of optimistic impression are you hoping AI can have on the world?

I really feel fortunate to be at DeepMind and to have the ability to deal with the work that I do. Robotics – and AI normally – will likely be a optimistic power on the earth, and it’s thrilling to have the ability to assist transfer that ahead.

On the entire, I’m significantly all in favour of seeing how AI may also help mitigate local weather change – whether or not that’s by discovering methods to make use of vitality extra effectively, or enabling us to supply clear vitality. Researchers at DeepMind are already interested by this, so I’m hopeful that we’ll be capable to transfer the world ahead and make an impression on this area.

Any suggestions for aspiring DeepMinders? Or somebody trying to get into an identical position?

If you wish to be at DeepMind, go for it. Apply, interview, and simply attempt. You may not get it the primary time however that doesn’t imply you possibly can’t attempt once more. I didn’t suppose I’d get a job at DeepMind, and after I acquired the provide, my preliminary thought was – certainly this can be a mistake! Everybody doubts themselves – I’ve by no means felt like the neatest particular person within the room. I’ve typically felt the alternative. However I’ve discovered that, regardless of these emotions, I do belong and I do should work at a spot like this. And that journey, for me, began with simply making an attempt.

Be taught extra about robotics at DeepMind and seek for open roles immediately

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