Who We Are: Matthew Blair, R&D Intern

Matthew Blair is Liopa’s new R&D Intern. He began working at Liopa this summer, during his work placement year. He’s currently studying for a BSc in Computer Science with a year of professional experience at QUB. We caught up to discuss what he’s achieved so far.


Q What’s your role at Liopa?


A I’ve been working on SRAVI mainly – developing new parts of it and speaking to the users. This includes introducing people to it for the first time. I’m the person in touch with new users to start the onboarding process.


In addition to that, I’m working on building new features. We have a whole list of things that we’d like to add to SRAVI and we’re working our way through that list.


Q Can you give an example of a feature?


A We wanted to add a re-try button, for when someone tries to record their lip movements, but the video fails for whatever reason.


Q What made that a necessity?


A There were lots of accidental recordings at a hospital in America – and that was skewing their usage stats. So, they requested a retry button and it seemed like a good idea.


Q Are you working mainly on the back-end, front-end, or full-stack?


A I’m working on both the back-end and front-end at the moment, but I’m still working out what I prefer.


The front-end is tricky with this, because the app is being used by people who are unwell, in hospital – it can’t just be nice to use, it has to be very obvious. With front-end development you’re naturally trying to make things look really nice and have cool features – but that’s not always a good fit for purpose.


Q So you have to prioritise simplicity?


A Yes, it has to be obvious and simple what the user needs to do – using big buttons and bold texts. Cool features like gestures and swiping – we can’t really use.


Q I understand you’re in your career placement year. Did the first two years of your degree prepare you well for working in industry?


A It was a bit of a mixed bag, there were things I was prepared for, and things I wasn’t. As one example, I had never used Swift before – when you get someone else’s code you’re not going to know what all of it does, it takes some time to get used to it.


But I had done a bit of SQL in the past – on some of my own projects – and that experience has helped with usage stats in SRAVI.



Q What do you want to do when you graduate? 


A Something similar to this – working with AI is the most interesting route I could go down. Because of how crazy it seems – during my first day on the job I was kind of mind-blown by how it works.


Q Do you have any advice for others who are starting their IT career?


A You need to find something that you actually enjoy – a lot of placements, even ones that my friends are doing, are old school. Some people are doing typical 9-5 hours and doing the same thing everyday. I wanted to work on something new, that hadn’t been done before. That curiosity came from doing my own projects. I was able to figure out what route to go down.


Q What sorts of your own projects were you doing?


A Lots of data science type of things. I was trying to make a trading bot – tools that could be used to trade with. They would read in different bits of financial data and use ML to inform investment decisions.


Q Sounds amazing. How did that go?


A The website that I was building it on turned out to be a big scam – FTX. Now, if I click ‘run’ there’s nothing to connect – it’s complicated to move it, because there’s API functions and formatting that would need to be done differently to export it onto another platform.


Q What do you think is trending and cool right now in tech?


A I think, NFTs for legal uses – proof of ownership of physical things. In theory, you could have an NFT to prove ownership of your house – it’s still not a thing yet.


Also, AI/ML for medical diagnosticsI think it’s really interesting how people can use machine learning to detect things like cancer on a CAT scan that might be missed by a human. I saw an article about how ML is now being used to detect heart attacks, years before they might happen. That’s all very cool work, and it’s really interesting to see how far it can go.

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