Toronto tech gurus start young

Toronto tech gurus start young

Tanmay Bakshi is a techy YouTube star who has built apps for the App Store and written a coding textbook—and he’s only 13. We asked the GTA’s smartest kid to tell us his secrets

Photograph courtesy of Tanmay Bakshi

You started coding when you were five years old. How did that happen?
My dad used to work as a computer programmer, and I loved to watch him work all day. Eventually, I taught myself programming languages by reading books and the Internet. Technology was a toy, just something fun to play with.

When did you build your first app?
In Grade 3, I couldn’t get the hang of my times tables. I created a simple iOS app called tTables to help me practise. My app was accepted into the App Store on Valentine’s Day of 2013. That was really exciting. Now it has around 12,000 downloads.

Where did you go from there?
Lately, I’ve been working with IBM’s computer program Watson, which has a suite of tools that developers can incorporate into their applications. You’ve instantly got machine learning at your fingertips. One of my very first Watson projects was AskTanmay—it’s kind of like Siri in that it can take your questions and answer them for you. It’s available on my GitHub page for everybody to use.

What are you most excited about right now?
I’ve been working on a tool that allows audiologists to diagnose hearing disorders through a neural network. The doctor just needs to enter data about the patient and the software will determine what hearing disorder the patient has. It’s challenging because the brain’s neural network is a black box—nobody knows what’s going inside of it. I’ve used something called an attention mechanism to decode what’s going on. In addition to making a diagnosis, the device lists which points of data were crucial in suggesting the diagnosis. So my neural network is no longer a black box.

Do you plan to stick around the GTA when you grow up?
Yes. I love Toronto’s ecosystem for AI development—I know a lot of people who have worked with speech recognition, speech synthesis, handwriting recognition. I’d love to do medical research, and the influx of technology coming into Toronto is encouraging students to get into the industry in the first place. So I’m not going anywhere.

What’s your favourite game?
I like to make games instead of playing them. I incorporate artificial intelligence so the games play themselves.

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