Edge of Innovation

Making computers more human

Istanbul, one of Europe’s hotbeds of innovation and entrepreneurialism, is home to Intel’s Internet of Things Ignition Lab. Here, Asli’s team builds and tests how hardware and software work together as end-to-end systems in the “Internet of Things”, analyses their business value and engages with Intel’s partners. “The Internet of Things makes life so much easier for consumers”, she says. “Take fitness tracking devices which quantify the level of exercise you have actually done. These devices not only make fitness much more effective, they also create something playful and rewarding when you share progress with your friends. They can act as health monitors as well. This is what modern technology is about: enriching our lives. What we do in the Lab is bring people and ideas together in order to find new ways of enrichment.”

 

It’s all about human interaction with computers

Currently Asli and her team explore perceptual computing: the interaction with a computer using natural human interfaces such as gestures, voice, and facial tracking. They work on a project to expand this to improve the learning experience in an educational context. Asli became fascinated with the possibilities of the technology when she watched a movie clip where the actress’s decision on which clothes to buy was made according to where Asli’s was looking at most.  “I am still amazed like a child when a computer actually does something when I do a certain gesture or movement, or when I can make a choice by just looking at it.”

This fascination is linked to her curiosity to how technology actually works. Asli studied Microelectronics in Istanbul and Edinburgh where she learnt all about the components and the “small pieces inside”. She now takes this into a broader context and looks at the way technology influences our lives. She constantly pushes boundaries: “I think Brain-Computer Interfaces will be the next big thing. It’s all about human interaction with computers – and the next step will be using your brain to control machines.”

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Now, everyone can use their passion to contribute shaping the future

These developments keep Asli’s team busy and excited. She is the Director of a team with more women than men – a rare example in technology. “Typical skills associated with women such as communication, collaboration, multi-tasking: these are vital in engineering.” This historically clashed with a reputational issue: “I believe one of the reasons why women often do not pursue careers in engineering is that they struggle to find a human element they can identify with.”

Asli now sees a huge opportunity for the technology industry to attract more women. With the shift in how we perceive technology which comes with new developments such as the Internet of Things and wearables, technology is no longer about PCs. Now is the era of human technology which needs creativity and collaboration from both genders to evolve further. As a consequence, working in this industry is a great opportunity for young women: “My advice to them: Be patient in developing your skills. Keep your passion for technology. Stay creative. And, most importantly, stay yourself and embrace the feminine energy you can bring into technology.”

Technology increasingly breaks down its own barriers. Now, everyone can use their passion to contribute shaping the future. Ultimately, this will create a more human world with intelligent computers and technology that has a real impact on us.

 

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