Vladislav Goncharenko: I want to make data science mainstream
Vlad Goncharenko is a senior data scientist at Impulse Neiry, an academic, machine learning instructor and regular person that enjoys parties. In this interview he told why he doesn't want to limit himself to academic career, how and where "one of a kind" ideas are born and will machines really conquer human beings.
Tell more about your path. Where did you study?

I am data-scientist and started studying at MIPT, where I am holding my own machine-learning course now. I graduated and went to Skolkovo business school – I studied at Institute for Information Transmission Problems there, it's a major machine-learning center in Russia.

I enjoyed math and physics since school, but while I was studying in university I realized I don't want to be an academic that lives off the grants and publishing articles. And such science is too detached from reality for me. Now, at Impulse Neiry I have an opportunity to put abstract concepts into practice and get results.

By the way, I write down-to-earth articles (for Habr) anyway – I do it to develop machine-learning methods in neurophysiology in general. I also assess my own results with these articles and use them for staff onboarding as they include basis required for our work.

Tell us about your previous experience before you joined Impulse Neiry.

I worked as software engineer before I got my bachelor's degree. Then I switched to data science and started working on smart shop project, but had to quit as I really needed to grow further. At some point I had to decide between science and industry. About a year ago Impulse Neiry team reached out to me through my friends and now I'm here.
During machine-learning workshop in Harbour. Space university in Barcelona
What your job at Impulse Neiry is about?

Impulse Neiry creates brain-controlled VR-games. Impulse Machine covers the VR-content and we are responsible for hardware (cables, headsets, EEG etc.) and brain impulse detection.

The whole system tracks the voltage off the electrodes placed on head. Acquired data is visualized as multichannel signal that I get, my job is to read it. For example, a person is playing the game, he sees 7 enemies and chooses one of them - brain impulses go to classifier and I provide an answer for "What is the target impulse?" and tell what enemy did this person choose.

I guess a lot of people might think it's incredible?

Yeah, the expression "we create games controlled by brain impulses" itself is surprising for people, but as I know how it works, I don't think it's some magic. By the way, there was one research on "Do you believe that machines will conquer humanity?" topic. According to the results, the more person's specification is closer to artificial intelligence (AI), the more chance he will answer "Are you out of your mind? It's impossible". And I agree with that.

We at Impulse Neiry really do innovative stuff, get results that nobody got before. For example, we recorded EEG signal in a moving car. There were no such studies before.

We both develop human knowledge in that field and help science while deliver actual product that regular people can use.

What project are you working right now?

We released two games: Racoons VS Demons and Mind Fighters. They are based on the same P300 mechanics: when you have different stimulus blinking and look at one of them while AI system is predicting your choice.
Impulse Neiry is a part of KB-12 corporate group with 3 marketing agencies and start-up accelerator based on them. As a data scientist, how do you handle this advertising and digital vibe?

It's cool to work in this atmosphere in general, there are pros and cons.

Pros: friendly vibe within the team, people are really social, creative and work on cool projects. It's very interesting for me to communicate with everybody as they are not from my industry. Same applies for others that find my field interesting, we chat and learn something new. It's some kind of knowledge-sharing within our company.

Cons: it's certainly easier for me to communicate with people from my industry, we are on the same page, and techies have some professional jokes. Again, it's not clearly a con as there is always something new happening around me and I really like to get deeper in it.

Does the fact that you are a part of KB-12 have any influence on your work?

There is a huge advantage – we use corporate resources for tasks we can't handle by ourselves. For example, there is a need for website -we just ask our web studio and guys with experience help us with that.

On top of it, we are working really close with Impulse Machine as they produce all VR-content for games. They are close at hand.

We are also constantly testing lots of different hypothesis and ask other KB-12 units staff at our Moscow office to test new games or mechanics. Guys always help us with that.

What people do you have in the team?

We have manager that is covering overall product, chief commercial and technical officers, neurophysiologists that are responsible of biological support of the startup and data scientists – we are in charge of tech support, analytics, result output, making charts etc.
What is the best thing about your work?

I am really thrilled by opportunity to predict unobvious processes – when you build up a model, it shows the correct results and it all checks out!

Tell more about KB-12 corporate culture.

First thought that crosses my mind – parties, they rock! Firstly, they are so vibrant, staff is getting closer. Secondly, we discuss some projects with colleagues like "hey, there's an idea, what do you think about it?" at literally every other party. These conversation often result in cool projects – a lot of ideas were born at parties.

What's your further career plan?

Right now we use data science only at Impulse Neiry, but I want my specialty to be useful for other units within KB-12. I want to make data science mainstream! We even discussed projects that could be done jointly with other units, there is some progress.

What is KB-12 for you?

Parties, people and growth.
© 2020 Impulse Neiry
The research is carried out by Neiry LLC with the grant support of the Skolkovo Foundation.