Carnegie Mellon University

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June 27, 2017

Carnegie Mellon Solidifies Leadership Role in Artificial Intelligence

New initiative, CMU AI, unifies expertise across departments and disciplines

By Byron Spice

Byron Spice
  • School of Computer Science
  • 412-268-9068

Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science (SCS) has launched a new initiative, CMU AI, that marshals work in artificial intelligence (AI) across the school's departments and disciplines, creating one of the largest and most experienced AI research groups in the world.

"For AI to reach greater levels of sophistication, experts in each aspect of AI, such as how computers understand the way people talk or how computers can learn and improve with experience, will increasingly need to work in close collaboration," said SCS Dean Andrew Moore. "CMU AI provides a framework for our ongoing AI research and education."

Image of the CMU AI logo

From self-driving cars to smart homes, AI is poised to change the way people live, work and learn.

"AI is no longer something that a lone genius invents in the garage," Moore added. "It requires a team of people, each of whom brings a special expertise or perspective. CMU researchers have always excelled at collaboration across disciplines, and CMU AI will enable all of us to work together in unprecedented ways."

CMU AI harnesses more than 100 faculty members involved in AI research and education across SCS's seven departments. Moore is directing the initiative with Jaime Carbonell, the Newell University Professor of Computer Science and director of the Language Technologies Institute; Martial Hebert, director of the Robotics Institute; Computer Science Professor Tuomas Sandholm; and Manuela Veloso, the Herbert A. Simon University Professor of Computer Science and head of the Machine Learning Department.

Carnegie Mellon has been on the forefront of AI since creating the first AI computer program, Logic Theorist, in 1956. It created the first and only machine learning department, studying how software can make discoveries and learn with experience. CMU scientists pioneered research into how machines can understand and translate human languages, and how computers and humans can interact with each other. Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute has been a leader in enabling machines to perceive, decide and act in the world, including a renowned computer vision group that explores how computers can understand images.

That expertise, spread across several departments, has enabled CMU to develop such technologies as self-driving cars; question-answering systems, including components of IBM's Jeopardy-playing Watson; world-champion robot soccer players; 3-D sports replay technology; and even an AI smart enough to beat four of the world's top poker players.

"AI is a broad field that involves extremely disparate disciplines, from optimization and symbolic reasoning to understanding physical systems," Hebert said. "It's difficult to have state-of-the art expertise in all of those aspects in one place. CMU AI delivers that and makes it centrally accessible."

Recent developments in computer hardware and software make it possible to reunite elements of AI that have grown independently and create powerful new AI technologies. These developments have created incredible demand from industry for computer scientists with AI know-how.

"Students who study AI at CMU have an opportunity to work on projects that unite multiple disciplines - to study AI in its depth and multidisciplinary, integrative aspects. They generally leave CMU for positions of great leadership, and they lead global AI efforts both in terms of starting new ventures and joining innovative companies that tremendously value our education and research," Veloso said. "CMU students at all levels have a big impact on what AI is doing for society."

Nearly 1,000 CMU students are involved in AI research and education. CMU also is vigorously engaged in outreach programs that introduce students in elementary and high school to AI topics and encourage their skills in the topic.

"We're teaching and engaging with those who will improve lives through technology, and who have taken responsibility for what happens in the rest of the century," Moore said. "Exposing these hugely talented human beings to the best AI resources and researchers is imperative for creating the technologies that will advance mankind. This is the first of many steps CMU will take to ensure AI is accessible to all."

CMU AI will focus on educating a new breed of AI scientist and on creating new AI capabilities, from smartphone assistants that learn about users by making friends with them to video technologies that can alter characters to appear older, younger or even as a different actor.

"CMU has a rich history of thought leadership in every aspect of artificial intelligence. Now is exactly the right time to bring this all together for an AI strategy to benefit the world," Moore said.