Tamar Huggins, the brain behind Tech Spark, is shaking up the AI landscape with her latest brainchild—a competitor to ChatGPT known as Spark Plug. With news of a $1.4 million investment to launch this groundbreaking venture, Huggins aims to establish an “equitable alternative” to existing mainstream AI platforms, as per details disclosed in a press release shared with AFROTECH.
This significant funding round was backed by some heavyweight supporters, including TD Bank, Salesforce, The Government of Canada, NBA Canada, and the Foundation for Black Communities.
“The FoundHers Report, 2021 states Black women receive an average of $30,000 throughout the entire life of their business. For us to hit $1 million let alone $1.4 million, and we’re still raising, it’s an amazing accomplishment for me,” Huggins told AFROTECH. “I am also really excited to see how this inspires other women to go after larger investments and create larger impacts with their businesses.”
Huggins’ vision for Spark Plug stems from Tech Spark’s core mission since its establishment in 2015. The Canadian-based tech and design school initially set out to empower K-12 students and educators of color in the education sector. Now, expanding its reach, the company plans to impact 100,000 students across the United States and Canada through an inclusive generative AI model integrated into Spark Plug.
In a bid to bring this innovative product to fruition, Huggins drew inspiration from the rich heritage of the Harlem Renaissance era and the Civil Rights movement. Notably, she even involved her 13-year-old daughter, Talia, in the product’s development process, particularly aiming at engaging Generation Z.
An integral aspect of Spark Plug’s development was the deliberate inclusion of Black voices. This strategy was pivotal in training the AI model to aptly respond to African-American vernacular—a conscious effort by Huggins to bridge cultural gaps.
Huggins emphasizes the criticality of approaching emerging technologies with sensitivity and forethought. She stresses the importance of involving Black UX designers, engineers, and developers right from the inception of new products. History has shown that overlooking their perspectives can lead to inadvertent harm within the community, and Huggins is keen to avoid such pitfalls.
Looking ahead, Huggins envisions Spark Plug as a tool to level the playing field for children, ensuring that essential resources are accessible to all. Moreover, she aims to elevate the significance of African-American vernacular in the broader context, advocating for its recognition and appreciation.
“We are not seeing Black creators in the AI space being a part of these major products and services that we now use,” Huggins said. “And when that happens a lot, we see a lot of abuse and damage that can come into the communities. When we shift that into a space where we have diversity of skill set, we have diversity of experience, thought expertise, etc., that is where we see true technological innovation. It comes from diversity.”
The launch of Spark Plug represents a significant step towards more inclusive and culturally sensitive AI solutions, a testament to Huggins’ commitment to meaningful innovation.