Dr Gareth "Gruff" Davies (BSc Physics 1991, PhD 1994) is an inventor and novelist, and the CEO of Kwiziq.com, a software programme that uses artificial intelligence to teach languages.
Gruff recently spoke at the Alumni Weekend 2015, taking a light-hearted look at what A.I. is capable of today, and how machine intelligence will play an increasing role in our education, helping students globally to learn more effectively. See Gruff in action here.
Tell us a bit about the work you’re doing now.
“I run a startup (Kwiziq.com) which is an “AI language coach” that help adults learn a foreign language faster.”
How has what you learnt at Imperial helped you in your career so far?
“I use things I learned in physics almost daily. It taught me how to think strategically, how to solve a wide variety of problems – it was a lot more than just quantum mechanics and relativity!”
What are your plans for the future?
“Kwiziq.com is my whole focus right now so at the moment it’s all about growing that business. I write SF in my spare time but there’s so little of that. I will find some time eventually to finish some more novels.”
What’s the most difficult decision you’ve ever had to make?
“Laying off 36 staff including myself when one of my first ventures failed. It felt like admitting defeat, giving up the fight, but we didn’t really have a choice. A painful but very valuable lesson on how to run a business.”
What are you most proud of in your life?
“I was going to say 'I’ve been on BBC Tomorrow’s World twice and Bill Gates presented one of my inventions at the Consumer Electronics Show' but that's thanks to the amazing teams of people I've had the pleasure of working with. As founder & spokesman I often get the credit but the reality is a lot of brilliant people work really hard together as team to take an intial idea or prototype of mine and realise it. I'm really proud of everyone I've had the privilege to work with, past and present. I'm proud of my parents too. I wasn’t eligible for a student grant (this was a time before student loans) and they were far from rich but they somehow found enough to put me through university. That was such a huge sacrifice. I owe my whole career to their selflessness.”