@AnuragBhandari twitter updates
Tech enthusiast, open source evangelist, book worm, software developer, sports fan, passionate gamer, movie buff.
Jul 29
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Players from the Indian Blind Cricket Team sharing their experiences at Disability Matters Asia Conference 2017 in Bangalore.

Wikipedia defines blind cricket as “a version of the sport of cricket adapted for blind and partially sighted players.” Before yesterday, I didn’t know it existed. Shame on me!

It is not every day that you get a chance to meet players of an international sports team. That happened to me at Disability Matters Asia Conference 2017, yesterday, July 28, where I met players from the Indian Blind Cricket Team. Although the conference was about innovations and best practices in the field of accessibility in software, prominent differently-abled people were invited to share their experiences. Top IT companies were invited to speak on accessibility in software, with Accenture being the lead event sponsor. The event was enlightening in many ways. I have separately written about my conference experiences on LinkedIn.

A blind cricket experience zone had been set up inside the conference hall. This was a pitch-sized area, bound by nets, where one could experience how blind cricket was played. Non-blind people were blindfolded before they were handed the bat. It was not surprising to see those people unable to even make contact with the ball. I did not try my hands at batting but watched intently when others did so.

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A blindfolded person tries his hands on batting.

Blind cricket is played with an auditory ball – a hollow ball filled with stuff that produces a rattling sound when the ball is rolled. The bowler, before throwing the ball, feels the stumps or the crease to make a sense of direction. Using their non-bowling hand as a rudder, they throw the ball with an underarm action. The batsman uses sweep-shot to maximize the chance of hitting the incoming rattling ball.

Each team has four players who are totally blind, categorized under B1, three players, partially blind, categorized under B2, and four players, partially sighted, categorized under B3. It is nothing short of amazing to see how the fielding side strategically uses this combination to cover the entire ground.

Blind Cricket is globally governed by the World Blind Cricket Council (WBCC). It has 10 member countries, including all regular cricket test playing nations such as India, Pakistan, Australia, South Africa, etc. The governing body in India is Cricket Association for the Blind in India (CABI).

The whole experience was enlightening. I think it was a great idea by the organizers to arrange for this experience. As an IT professional, I found it particularly interesting to see in reality how the blind play sports. I was already getting some ideas about certain design elements to use and not use while creating accessible software.

Leading the contingent of players, present at the event, was Shekhar Naik, mentor and former captain of the Indian team. Naik has captained the Indian cricket team to two major victories – the 2012 T20 world cup and the 2014 world cup. He was awarded the Padma Shri earlier this year by the Government of India for this feats. It was an absolute honor to meet the man in person: a humble and down-to-earth guy, always ready to make friends.

Naik is partially blind and plays in the B2 category as wicketkeeper-batsman. He told me the stories of other players that he knew as well as his own. A lot of players in the team are congenitally blind, mostly due to heredity. In Naik’s own family, 15 others have some form of visual impairment.

To sum up, DMAC was one of the best conferences I’ve ever been to. I got a chance to meet some incredible personalities who have achieved phenomenal success despite struggling with even the simplest of things every day of their lives, things that fully abled people take for granted. I am glad that I now know something about how the blind play sports. This has opened up my thought process for designing more accessible software. I close my blog post with this beautiful picture where I am standing along side the Indian cricket team (Naik is wearing an orange cap).

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Jul 02

The screenshot says it all. I did it! It’s a proud feeling. Now rather than rambling here, I’ve done that on the beautiful git repository I have created for my Ruby on Rails blog. Check it out – https://github.com/anuragbhd/ror-blog.

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Jun 03

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Ici je suis écrit en français. C’est mon prèmier blog en français: un effort sincère sans beaucoup d’aide de Google Translate. Je n’écris pas beaucoup mots que je ne connais pas.

Mais je ne devrais pas me limiter à l’écriture de blogs pour apprendre le français. Je devrais écouter des chansons françaises et lire leurs paroles. Et lire les nouvelles en français.

C’est marrant. Peut-être devrais-je écrire plus de ces blogs.

Mar 18

Don’t let “edition” in the title mislead you into believing I’ve had a lot of fun trip to Bangalore before. But I’m hoping I will going forward.

Nishith and I went on an official trip to attend Microsoft’s March 16-17 Tech Summit event. I have nothing much to say about the event other than it was mostly Microsoft’s product advertisement carnival, and that the only high point was the session on cross-platform mobile app development using Xamarin. Having created both native (Android and iOS) and hybrid (Ionic and Sencha Touch) mobile apps, I was instantly sold on the idea of using C# to create 100% native apps. IMHO, hybrid apps suck! They suck much less with Ionic 2, but I have found the overall UX to be still behind what native apps offer. I have made a pledge to develop my next mobile app POC using Xamarin.

Since there is not much else to talk about the summit, I’ll share a few memories of my trip.

Before leaving, we celebrated Shivam’s birthday with a cake and team lunch.

We had dinner at a very happening place Koramangala Social on 7th Street in Koramangala. These jalapeño cheese croquettes were so delicious we ordered them twice.

On day 2, our lunch was Andhra meal. We had this amazing Andhra thali at Bheema’s on Church Street. It was my first Andhra food experience.

On our return flight, we hung out at the Priority Pass lounge in Bangalore airport. It was my first lounge experience. Freebies are always good 🙂

P.S.: I have nothing against Ionic/Angular. I have always absolutely loved the development experience that they offer, it’s just the end result that is most of the times not to my liking. I’d blame the WebView more than the SDK!

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Dec 21

Credit: inago.com/technology

Everyone is talking about Artificial Intelligence (AI). Recent times have seen a big surge in AI research and huge investments in that direction by corporates and academia. Major IT and consulting players have even declared AI as an emerging trend, and have started offering AI-based services to their clients.

Working at Accenture Labs, it’s a privilege to play with the latest and the greatest trends. All cutting edge work at Accenture begins at Labs. My team was tasked with creating a Skype for Business bot: a virtual agent – just like a Facebook chat bot – to intelligently understand and respond to user’s queries, in a way a human does. As some people would guess, this required some sort of natural language processing (NLP) capabilities to be added to the bot.

With the recent explosion of cognitive offerings from the “biggies”, we didn’t have to start from scratch in order to implement such a profound functionality. We relied on Microsoft’s LUIS for our bot’s language understanding capability. Although working with LUIS was fun, the curious keeda (bug) in me had me looking for alternatives. I soon found out that the concept of intents and entities was common across NLU frameworks. Google’s API.ai and Facebook’s Wit.ai both work on similar models, except they have a slight edge over LUIS in their ability to keep track of context.

It’s been a great learning experience so far, and I intend to delve deeper into NLU. And, maybe, explore other AI-based cognitive technologies, such as speech recognition and computer vision (I have dabbled in both in the past).

C’est génial!

P.S.: On this topic, check out Mark Zuckerberg’s attempt at building Jarvis, his home automation AI.

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