Makers Lab, the thin-q-bator or R&D division of Tech Mahindra, is gearing up for the next phase of growth wherein connected devices powered by Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) will increase productivity with minimal human intervention, plus identification and implementation of right technology solutions for its customers. Tech Mahindra has four Makers Lab in India; these are located in Pune, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai, and cater to over 100-300 customers. Last month, two more of these research and development centres have been opened in Munich, Germany and at Plano, Dallas, US. \u201cInnovation is the key to ensure that we are future-ready,\u201d said CP Gurnani, CEO & MD, Tech Mahindra. \u201cThrough our research arm Makers Lab in the US & Germany, we intend to inspire our partner ecosystem, academia and employees to focus on innovation in next gen technologies and customer experience. We believe it is our responsibility to invest in the local communities we operate in and initiatives like these help inspire and increase the employability of future technologists.\u201d Gurnani said, \u201cOur key focus areas include AI, entrepreneurship, tech bets and capitalising on customer relationships. The future calls for orchestrating an intricate interplay of networks, DevOps and IoT for connected customer experience.\u201d As part of its efforts, one such pilot project is a cartless, queue-less shopping experience in a retail store. Called X-retail, it is the next generation retail framework which includes sensors and augmented reality to provide the next level shopping experience for enterprise customers. According to Nikhil Malhotra, Head, Makers Lab, the system works as a module which include beacons for in-store positioning, location-based offers, augmented offers on the application and the like. \u201cThe idea of X-retail was to combine the brick and mortar and the brick and click story for the next generation retail considering most of the shopping done by millenials in 2025 is expected to be augmented. X-retail is being piloted as a proof-of-concept in few retail customers, with some interesting cases of having an augmented display of the product as well,\u201d he said. Entellio is another product on bot framework built on natural language processing which allows users to have seamless and contextually meaningful conversations. Malhotra said, \u201cEntellio was rolled out as an internal HR chatbot within Tech Mahindra. The self-help tool is used to respond to HR-related queries from employees instantly. Typically, queries on standard policies were earlier raised through a ticket to a back-end shared services team which used to take as much as four hours to respond.\u201d He added: \u201cEntellio has been piloted and proof of concepts are being built for a broad range of customers with a number of use cases; these include improving interaction, giving a natural user interface of conversations, reducing opex etc.\u201d The Makers Lab aims to solve practical business problems of the customers. \u201cThe primary focus of the Lab is the \u2018Tech Bets\u2019 of Tech Mahindra, especially building products, solutions and platforms in areas of AI, ML and robotics. A robot was also designed called Saarthi as a wellness agent concept with augmented reality and virtual reality,\u201d he said. The impact of new-age technologies are much visible in the manufacturing or industrial segment. From being a mostly people or labour-intensisve model in the late 80s, to adopting to automation tools, software and platforms, manufacturing at present is a greatly transformed segment. The industry is now at a cusp of embracing the next generation of automation wherein robots will work alongside humans in a connected factory floor that is powered by technologies such as AI, robotic and automation, machine learning amplified by increasing use of Big Data and analytics in decision-making. Malhotra said, \u201cWe have now four Makers Labs in the country besides labs in the US, UK and Germany When we started the lab, we started with three people which has now grown to a team of about 60. To put it in subtle terms, the mission at these niche labs is to build smart machines which would drive business efficiency for its customers and also give a tinkering space for its employees as well.