CMU to harness power of collaboration to advance artificial intelligence |
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Aaron Aupperlee
Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University announced Tuesday an initiative to bring together its research and education related to artificial intelligence.

CMU AI will coordinate faculty, students and staff working on AI in robotics, engineering, language, human-computer interaction, machine learning and more.

“Having grown large, we’ve also grown a little further apart, and in the context of AI, we are bringing it back to together,” said Jaime Carbonell, director of CMU’s Language Technologies Institute. “And we expect to grow more”

CMU AI will create one of the largest and most experienced artificial intelligence research groups in the world, the university said. Carbonell said researchers classified their work based on the sub-field of artificial intelligence in which they worked, such as robotics, machine translation or machine learning, not under the umbrella of AI. Now those disciplines will be under CMU AI, underscoring the university’s commitment to the research and potentially upping the university’s public profile and funding.

“It certainly helps the messaging,” Carbonell said. “But more than messaging, it helps the substance.”

Carbonell said projects like analyzing social networks for nefarious activity and designing robots to care for the elderly will benefit from harnessing the university’s entire AI hive mind.

Artificial Intelligence was essentially created at CMU. In 1956, professors Allen Newell and Herbert A. Simon helped write Logic Theorist, considered the first artificial intelligence computer program.

Since, the university’s advancements in artificial intelligence have worked their way into everything from self-driving cars to poker bots that can defeat the best players in the world. CMU AI projects help computers recognize faces and images and power robot soccer players and IBM’s Jeopardy-playing Watson. They’ve improved instant replay in sports and algorithms that match kidney donors with recipients. Two teams of CMU students are working with Amazon to improve Alexa , its home assistant. Another team is using machine learning to develop a reading and math tutor for kids in countries facing teacher shortages. The RoboTutor project is a semifinalist in the $15 million Global Learning XPRIZE.

AI technologies developed at CMU have been acquired by Facebook, Amazon, Google and more.

“AI is not something that a lone genius invents in the garage,” Andrew Moore, the dean of CMU’s School of Computer Science, said in a statement. “It requires a team of people, each of whom brings a special expertise or perspective. CMU researchers have always excelled at collaboration across disciplines, but CMU AI will require all of us to work together in unprecedented ways.”

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The initiative will bring together more than 100 professors and researchers working on artificial intelligence in CMU’s School of Computer Science’s seven departments. Moore will direct the initiative. Carbonell will lead the initiative along with Martial Hebert, the head of the Robotics Institute; Tuomas Sandholm, the computer science professor behind Libratus, the poker bot, and Manuela Veloso, the head of the Machine Learning Department.

The initiative will focus on two things. It will work to educate a new breed of AI scientists. About 1,000 students, more than half of the School of Computer Science, are working on AI-related projects. Moore said these are the people who will improve life through technology and shape the rest of the century.

“Exposing these hugely talented human beings to the best AI resources and researchers is imperative for creating the technologies that will make our lives healthier and safer in the future,” Moore said.

The initiative will also focus on creating new capabilities for AI. It will bring together work in machine learning, the study of how software can make decisions and learn through experience; machine translation, using computers to understand and translate languages; human-computer interaction, how people and machines can work together, and robotics, which is renowned for its computer vision group studying how computers understand images.

“Students who study AI at CMU have an opportunity to work on projects that unite multiple disciplines,” Veloso said. “CMU students at all levels have a big impact on what AI can do for society.”

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at, 412-336-8448 or via Twitter @tinynotebook.

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