IBM Partnership, AI Solutions, Metaverse And Digital Human Beings: Dinis Guarda Interviews Thomas Normark And Thor Hauberg From NTT DATA


Dinis Guarda interviews Thomas Normark, Global Head of Innovation at NTT DATA Business Solutions, and Thor Hauberg, Director of Venture Lab at NTT DATA Business Solutions for his YouTube Podcast at the IBM TechXchange EMEA Summit 2024. The experts discuss how NTT DATA is leveraging AI solutions such as watsonx and partnering with global corporations like IBM to provide solutions to businesses. The podcast is powered by and

IBM Partnership, AI Solutions, Metaverse And Digital Human Beings: Dinis Guarda Interviews Thomas Normark And Thor Hauberg From NTT DATA

Thomas Normark is a leader in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) and innovation, currently serving as the Global Head of Innovation at NTT DATA Business Solutions. With over 15 years of experience in the industry, Thomas is a TEDx speaker and external lecturer, recognised for his discussions on AI, machine learning, big data, digital humans, avatars, and robotics. Thomas is widely regarded as a “robot whisperer and father of avatars”.

Thor Hauberg has a diverse background in business development, strategy, and innovation. Currently serving as the Director of Venture Lab at NTT DATA Business Solutions Nordics, he engages with tech startups and established firms to address challenges with emergent digital technologies. Thor’s work is majorly focussed on digital strategy, smart products, industry 4.0, and the intelligent enterprise. He is also an External Lecturer in innovation management at Copenhagen Business School. 

During the interview at IBM TechXchange Summit EMEA 2024, both Thomas and Thor highlight that NTT DATA supports businesses to grow by collaborating with them with a technology strategy. The strategy defines key focus areas in technology and creates proprietary innovations aimed at enhancing productivity and agility in development processes. The company actively engages in collaborative research and development with clients at its “Innovation Centers” across the globe to drive innovation and address industry challenges. 

Every year we spend about $3.8 billion on R&D. We need all the innovations and all the assets that come out of innovation labs and capitalize on this using the strengths of the entire group”, says Thomas. 

NTT DATA: Transforming the businesses

NTT DATA offers a holistic approach that enables businesses to pursue data driven modernisation, new digital experiences, and workforce transformation. 

We can see that the development and the transformation within the technology arena is going so fast right now that you need a very strong partner ecosystem in order to pick and choose the best things always. You cannot just develop everything by yourself anymore. So it’s at least, as we see it, a matter of combining the right services, building your own components in combination with existing available services, platforms, functionalities”, says Thomas.

Things are progressing so fast that you need to really be part of a good ecosystem and find the right partners to utilize and capitalize on these innovations. It’s going so fast that you need to distribute the resources among some of your peers in the industry, because otherwise you will have a higher cost of going into the solution. Also, as we see so many models coming up within six months or 12 months there is a very high risk of being replaced by something else”, adds Thor Hauberg. 

AI innovations by NTT DATA in collaboration with IBM

NTT DATA Business Solutions and IBM recently announced a collaboration for the establishment of a Center of Excellence (CoE) for the watsonx generative AI platform. While currently anchored in Denmark, the joint CoE will be leveraged for NTT Global initiatives, it aims to focus on the use of the IBM watsonx AI and data platform with watsonx AI assistants for the development of embedded generative AI solutions for clients.

With this initiative, we see very good and rapid results. At this time of market and with this rapid pace of change, these new solutions and platforms from IBM offer cutting edge solutions to client engineering”, says Thomas. 

According to Thor, “The enterprise grade large language model capabilities that were trained on the domain specific data or the curated data could be deployed locally, and combined with open source models and libraries. This is why, I think, we were not hesitating at all to jump on this wagon and accept the partnership and the collaboration from IBM.” 

NTT DATA: Innovating in AI, metaverse, and digital human beings

NTT DATA has built the it.human platform to help organisations in a variety of sectors combine the best of digital and human interactions. The AI-driven digital humans are able to interact with governments and boost customer experience using advanced AI and spatial computing technologies.

“Two years ago we thought that things would actually turn out a little bit differently. So, we put some bed on the metaverse and spatial computing and everything. We have also set up different solutions. So, when we are onboarding an employee internally in NTT DATA business, we are inviting the new employees to do that in the metaverse together with our People director and so on.

When the genAI revolution kicked in, it sucked the budgets out of everything. And of course the metaverse was then paused. But we can now know that 95% of the metaverse will be created by generative AI. We now have AI generating the content and the graphic universe. We are also teaming up to explore the next wave of spatial computing or metaverse universes, graphical interfaces. I’m looking very much forward to that”, explained Thomas. 

He also highlighted the innovations in the human AI and digital beings:

With AI technologies available today, we can replicate human behaviour, look and feel. We now can recreate even the microexpressions, your body language, and your emotions. We have combined two research projects: one about replicating human behavior and the other one replicating the human appearance, into what we call our digital human platform where we can create what I call digital newborns. So, it’s the new digital beings that can then be trained to specific job functions: it could be a digital human receptionist as we have now many places already deployed it could be digital human, sports promoter, could be a digital human sales clerk, or librarian, or healthcare system. 

We are trying to bring in these digital humans where real humans and flesh and blood are not available. This, we can see, is really kicking off right now because the customers are now not afraid of this anymore because they have seen based on the generative AI revolution that technology will be more and more humanized and the abstraction layer between human and technology will go away”, explained Thomas.

How NTT DATA ensures protection of data

NTT DATA Data Classification and Protection Services safeguard the sensitive information from unauthorised access by enforcing policies. The framework works in sync with businesses and organisations to bring governance to user data. 

Thor explains: 

The flexibility of the platform is very important because that ensures that we in a specific use case can take all the necessary actions to ensure data. That means creating a solution that’s just fit for the case right and that often means that we need to run something on premise, some hybrid cloud and then ensure that the data we sent back and forth is only the needed data. We have curated models that are specific for specific use cases and then of course the governance solution that’s both important from an ethical compliance point of view.

Concluding the interview, the two guests spoke about the promise and challenges that these technologies hold:

The exciting thing for me to look into is how these innovations or technology superpowers. They will now integrate into each other: the metaverse, the digital human twin, generative AI, even blockchain solutions, to ensure that we can do tracking and ID and everything. So watching these technologies come together in a big pot and then merge into it and create this wonderful taste of the future, that is what I’m looking forward to. On the other side I’m a little bit scared about what will happen when all autonomous AI agents will be let loose”, said Thomas. 

While Thor commented:

“It’s super important that we keep having this perspective that whenever we introduce a new technology we don’t really know the effect of it before we see it. We need to take a pause and stop and just evaluate what is actually the impact of the technologies that we put into the market. I think that’s very important that we do that as a society.”