#Asia Satya Nadella in India; talks about AR, VR, digital transformation

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Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg. Photo credit: Johannes Marliem.

Microsoft’s chief executive Satya Nadella is excited about “infinite” possibilities that augmented reality and AI can offer and wants India to benefit from those.

Microsoft is using AI and machine learning in the healthcare sector to help doctors in outpatient care and diagnostics in the country, the Microsoft CEO, who is touring India, said today. Satya also noted Microsoft’s work in rural Andhra Pradesh, where the use of AI helps schools monitor and track school dropouts.

“There is so much you can do with AI – offer personalized education, or predict and recommend relevant jobs on websites. It can find application in any sector,” Satya said.

He is also betting on the potential of augmented reality and believes that it is the “ultimate computer.” Augmented reality “will take a little more time,” but the way forward will be mixed reality where augmented and virtual reality merge, he said.

Microsoft is also invested on AR headsets. The first generation of the Hololens, the headset that lets you interact with life-like holograms, is already out in the market. “I always think of the first time I put on HoloLens to go through a virtual anatomy class. If I were to ever have it, I would have been a better electrical engineer,” he says.

Eventually, augmented reality and virtual reality will come together, where a single device can have multiple settings, whether you want a full 360-degree immersive field of view or you want to be able to see the real world, he added.

Satya also spoke about digital transformation in the country.

“It is important to create an ecosystem where products and services are shared. Indian startups are doing such exceptional work around AI, machine learning, AR/VR, which can be leveraged by the government for education and health,” the Indian-born boss of the IT giant said at an event in Bangalore today.

Nandan Nilekani, the man behind biometrics-based Aadhaar card program agreed and said “the government can provide a minimalist infrastructure where both private and public companies could flourish.”

Aadhaar, which has helped connect over 300 million bank accounts with a unique identification number piled over a biometrics system, is a significant opportunity for Microsoft. The company wants to offer cloud infrastructure for developers who are building services around biometrics, such as fingerprints and retina scans.

“I would love for all our services such as Office 365, or Dynamics, or Windows to be great participants in the India Stack. I should be able to log in using Aadhaar. I should be able to use any of our applications using the identity system that every Indian uses,” Satya said.

The company is now looking at exploiting its own capabilities in these areas to drive the next level of technology growth. Cloud, next to AI and AR, is the third frontier that Satya is banking on.

Today Microsoft took an important step in that direction. The company has bagged Indian startup unicorn Flipkart as a client for its cloud service. It counts companies like Reliance General Insurance and Fortis Healthcare as some of its clients in India. The ecommerce startup now will also adopt Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure – Azure.

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