Computer vision is one of the most exciting fields in the artificial intelligence (AI) landscape. The technology is powering innovations such as autonomous driving, and its significance in India is growing by leaps and bounds due to the increased need for data labeling services. It comes as no surprise then that one of the world’s leading AI data solutions providers, TELUS International, recently acquired Bengaluru-based Playment to strengthen its ability to meet the growing demand for diverse datasets that power AI solutions.
Founded in 2015 by former Flipkart employees Akshay Lal, Ajinkya Malasane and Siddharth Mall, Playment (now rebranded as Playment by TELUS International) was founded with a deep-rooted belief that they could make significant contributions to the AI industry via the talent that the Indian tech community has to offer.
This talent and vision is what helped Playment build their proprietary data labeling platform which generates high-quality datasets that power global machine learning (ML) applications. Despite operating in a niche industry with ever-evolving needs, Playment charted a successful path. Over the last five years, the company grew to support over 200 ML teams and Fortune 100 brands worldwide through creating high-quality datasets that inform their computer vision applications, including, but not limited to autonomous driving.
Today, Playment by TELUS International’s clients include many of the biggest brands in the world, including Samsung, Mercedes, Sony, Siemens, Nuro and more. Speaking about his team’s relentless pursuit to provide excellent product development and service improvement, Playment Co-Founder and CEO, Siddharth Mall, says:
“Five years ago, the data annotation market was non-existent in India and the ML ecosystem was fairly unheard of. After meeting with computer vision innovators to understand data requirements that fuelled AI systems like self-driving cars we soon discovered that our platform could support data annotations for a wide variety of computer vision applications.”
It was this determination to understand and exceed client expectations that helped the company grow their engagements with some of the key accounts they secured in the first year of business. This level of service led to Playment securing an average customer retention rate of 98%.
Alongside impressive customer KPIs, Playment’s data labelling solution – a first-of-its-kind in India – drew the attention of global tech giant TELUS International – which acquired the company in 2021. Playment’s services, its growth and its future with TELUS International speak volumes about the promise and potential of AI in India.
What code is to software, data is to AI
Machines learn just like humans do – by repeatedly identifying the same thing over and over again. By feeding annotated data to machine learning models, you can teach these machines to analyze patterns and make decisions. This is where Playment’s solution comes in. Their technology allows for faster and more accurate labeling of images and videos, a critical component of computer vision applications.
“Our solution offers end-to-end support for machine learning teams building computer vision technologies. By combining AI and human intelligence, we’ve developed a solution that is 5X faster than open-source tools and can achieve greater than 99 percent accuracy for labeled data outputs,” says Ajinkya Malasane, Co-founder and Head of Business at Playment.
The use cases of AI programs can stretch as far as the imagination, as long as they are powered by accurate and high-quality datasets, such as those provided by Playment and TELUS International.
“We’ve created datasets for some ground-breaking computer vision applications like aerial imagery for tower site prediction, weed detection in agritech, industrial components counting solutions, stock-out detection and gesture recognition in retail, real estate mapping, auto text categorization, and many more,” adds Siddharth.
Playment’s mission to expedite the AI age started with cats
One of Playment’s very first clients asked them to build datasets to develop a cute cat algorithm.
“Our team members used our data annotation platform to label different cats and their corresponding degrees of cuteness to build the cute cat dataset. This was one of our first encounters with a computer vision-specific use case and it was when we began looking at machine learning and the other applications of computer vision across industries,” recalls Ajinkya.
From there, their capabilities were highly sought-after by overseas clients seeking data to build perception models for self-driving cars and other computer vision technologies. For instance, Playment partnered with a California-based client experimenting with an ambulance detection model that would train self-driving vehicles to recognize ambulances. To do this, Playment built a labeling tool that provided reliable object tracking and detection features to track ambulances accurately.
And that’s just the beginning. Playment believes that the remarkable strides they’ve already made have barely scratched the surface of what computer vision applications can achieve across a variety of sectors and industries, including agriculture, real estate, and mining.
For instance, it is well-known that computer vision applications are heavily leveraged for autonomous driving to improve safety and provide advanced driver assistance features, and years and years of research into computer vision has powered delivery bots that bring ordered items to your door. However, nowadays, emerging applications in satellite imagery and drone technologies are starting to become more prevalent as well.
Looking forward with TELUS International
In July 2021, NYSE and TSX-listed TELUS International (ticker: TIXT), a digital CX and IT provider, and one of only two globally-scaled, managed training data and data annotation services and platform providers in the world, acquired Playment. TELUS International has provided sophisticated customer experiences and ML solutions for speech and Natural Language Processing (NLP) for many leading global brands.
Alongside the acquisition of Lionbridge AI six months prior, Playment by TELUS International plays a critical role in further strengthening the company’s core AI Data Solutions division, uniquely positioning it to support technology and large enterprise clients across a variety of verticals to develop complex AI-powered solutions.
“Joining forces with a tech giant like TELUS International opens up many opportunities for us to continue our vision of expediting the AI age at a grander scale. We are looking to double the size of our team in the next six months and are hiring across engineering, product, and customer success,” says Siddharth.
According to Statista, India’s IT industry is flourishing thanks to strong governmental support, a comprehensive English-education system in its biggest cities, a wide talent pool and the open market. This presents a unique opportunity for Playment and TELUS International to optimize on the country’s immense potential.
Talking about the possibilities that the acquisition offers, Siddharth and Ajinkya state that TELUS International’s global presence, deep expertise and industry knowledge will help further accelerate their R&D efforts, widen their global customer base and help them leverage their large dataset and in-house annotation capabilities. Further, TELUS International is widely recognized for its caring culture, bolstering numerous up-skilling opportunities and world-class employee engagement scores amongst its more than 58,000 team members across over 25 countries of operation.
“Our incredible team members have played a pivotal role in our growth journey. Post the acquisition, we are rapidly building a stellar ML team to optimize the quality and cost of labeling by leveraging machine learning to continue leading product development and innovation in the data annotation industry,” adds Ajinkya.
With the exponential growth of possibilities, India is sure to continue its ongoing transformation into a global-leading AI innovation hub. In the last five years, the number of AI patents in India has increased significantly, and more companies are embracing AI and computer vision. TELUS International and Playment are now hiring the brightest minds in AI to support technology and large enterprise clients, developing AI-powered solutions across a variety of vertical markets.