Samarjit Das has fulfilled his childhood dream: exploring the universe using artificial intelligence (AI). Now he’s using this dream to help children with respiratory diseases.
Samarjit Das is a space fan, always has been. As a young boy, he gazed up at the moon and the stars, imagining the Apollo missions. Space and space exploration fascinated him. He dreamed of becoming an astronaut. As an adult, Samarjit has remained true to this dream by working closely with NASA and developing technologies to advance space exploration.
It’s important that I do work that inspires my daughter, so that I can come home to her and continue to inspire her.
Samarjit leads the Bosch research team that developed SoundSee — a system that uses sound recognition and machine learning to verify that technology in the spacecraft is working smoothly. This technology can be thought of as an acoustic lens; it provides a visual representation of the intensity of sounds from its surroundings. As a result, the integrated AI can detect anomalies that we humans would not notice and derives recommendations on whether something needs to be repaired or replaced. This novel system was sent to the International Space Station (ISS) in November 2019.
Samarjit Das — Space fan and passionate scientist
The amateur astronomer
As a scientist, Samarjit’s enthusiasm for space isn’t confined to his office — he takes it home with him. His daughter is named Antariksa, which means “outer space” in Samarjit’s native Sanskrit. She is his main driving for doing what he does: “It’s important that I do work that inspires her, so that I can come home to her and continue to inspire her.” When he and Antariksa aren’t playing, Samarjit can be found in the backyard of his Pittsburgh, USA home, peering up at the sky with his telescope. His eyes light up when he talks about his favorite star clusters, such as the Ring Nebula or the Andromeda Galaxy.
When passion becomes a job
For this Indian native, the SoundSee space mission feels life changing. Samarjit has had a lifelong passion for space, despite growing up in a part of the world where there was no manned spaceflight. “That I would one day lead this mission and work directly with astronauts is something I could never have dreamed of.”
The rocket launch with SoundSee on board was therefore tremendously emotional for Samarjit. He describes the experience as almost surreal, a childhood dream come true: “The fact that something we built was on the rocket is inconceivable to me. But we — our team! — made it happen. That was one of the greatest moments I can imagine.”
“Invented for life”
Anyone who listens to Samarjit quickly realizes that his work is much more than a job to him. He wants to make a difference. “What motivates me every day is how I can improve the lives of my family and community.” Years ago, Samarjit began working with hospital emergency rooms to use machine learning to make operations faster and more efficient. For him, it’s natural to apply the technologies he developed for space exploration to health research as well. That’s why SoundSee is now collaborating with the healthcare organization Highmark Health on a whole new area of research. Together, they want to find out how deep-audio AI can help diagnose pediatric lung disease.
“For me, the Bosch motto ‘Invented for life’ means the motivation to be able to use our knowledge and experience for the benefit of mankind. It gives me great pleasure when what we develop has a direct impact on people’s health and well-being, and makes life a little better. That is the most important motivation for everything I do.”