11:56 | 05.06.17 | Interviews | exclusive 166053

Naira Hovakimyan: Armenian IT lacks renowned scholars

More than 200 representatives of tech entrepreneurship and science community gathered for Unleash the Future tech event, held on May 30.

Itel.am talked to Professor Naira Hovakimyan, Director of Intelligent Robotics Lab at the University of Illinois, Co-Founder of IntelinAir and a keynote speaker at this event.

- You spoke about the future of cutting edge research within the frames of Unleash the Future. How would you develop research direction in Armenia?

-A technological university should be established in Armenia with international specialists invited to teach here. The gap appeared back in 90’s, when people either left science or migrated.

It is impossible to develop science, when you have only a few specialists. Artificial Intelligence, which is widely discussed nowadays, cannot possibly solve all the issues. We should have a good understanding of where and how to apply each technology to make it interdisciplinary.

-You visit Armenia once a year. To what extend is the pace of Armenian IT development satisfactory?

-The development itself is impressive, but you need to pay more attention on scientific sector so that technologies develop naturally. Otherwise, startups will reach a certain stage and stop right there.

Of course, the Armenian IT lacks science. Basically, you will not encounter university startups in Armenia. There are mainly startups supporting tireless efforts of talented students.
-Could you name directions, which you think, should become the focus of Armenian IT?

-Both Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality have promising future, but it is difficult to tell whether Armenia will be able to become a global leader in one of those directions.

The issue here is lack of world famous scholars in Armenian IT. There are some renowned Armenians in global IT, but unfortunately, none of them live in Armenia.

Despite all that, I see great potential of progress and development in the sector. I hope that with time it will become possible to invite renowned experts to Armenia. For instance, let’s consider the deep learning guideline by YerevaNN scientific educational foundation. Thanks to their hard work, the young people from YerevaNN will soon reach a level where they’ll be able to invite a famous foreign professor to Armenia, who in their turn will offer their ideas to YerevaNN for experimenting here.

If Armenia has a good robotics lab, I’m ready to offer ideas, advice, direction, and vision to Armenia’s youngsters at my every visit to the country.

Armenian IT needs specialists with significant life experience. It’s obvious the IT sector lacks older generation that would mentor the new one.

I have many hopes for the newly created FAST. It will be great if the foundation helps famous Armenian scholars from other countries to visit Armenia and share their experience. At the same time, it’ll be good to send talented young people abroad to be mentored by those specialists.

- You co-founded IntelinAir with Al Eisaian nearly 3 years ago. The aerial imagery company forms the topographic imagine of a given field. Do you have plans to expand activity in Armenia?

- IntelinAir headquarters is in San Jose. We also have an office in the University of Illinois. We have quite a lot of clients now. Our Chief Technology Officer Ara Nefian is from USA, he worked at rather large and famous project in NASA. I focus on the greater vision – to ensure competitiveness for the next 5-10 years.

IntelinAir’s Armenia team is comprised of 4 people now, but soon it will expand to 10-12 staffers.

Narine Daneghyan talked to Naira Hovakimyan