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Oren Eztioni

Photo by Annie Laurie Malarkey

Oren Etzioni is CEO of the Seattle-based Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, a nonprofit AI research institute founded by Paul Allen

The Next Frontier of Artificial Intelligence Research

12/3/2014 : Oren Etzioni

The Next Frontier of Artificial Intelligence Research

12/3/2014 : Oren Etzioni

Oren Eztioni

Photo by Annie Laurie Malarkey

Oren Etzioni is CEO of the Seattle-based Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, a nonprofit AI research institute founded by Paul Allen

The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation has announced a commitment of $5.7 million to five research teams focused on Artificial Intelligence (AI) as part of its Allen Distinguished Investigator (ADI) program. The ADI program provides funds to extraordinary researchers who explore some of the most ambitious questions in science and help to make research at the cusp of knowledge possible. This is the first time that ADI Awards have been made in AI. The ADI awards focus on three important areas of AI – machine reading, diagram interpretation and spatial and temporal reasoning.

While AI is increasingly part of our everyday lives – in our phones, in our cars, in our advertising – it has the potential to do so much more. Computers process incomprehensibly large amounts of data, yet they lack innate human abilities such as common sense reasoning, and the ability to learn and apply knowledge acquired from text. A child “knows” that bears are scary and can hurt them, and react by running away. College students study increasingly difficult subject areas that build upon one other in order to solve complex problems. Today’s machines simply don’t have that kind of ability. Yet.

The five research teams – from Virginia Tech, The University of Washington, UC Berkeley and University College London – were selected because they are all working on one of the three identified focus areas. While some of the researchers are focused on visual interpretation and others are experimenting with understanding text, they are all working on ambitious projects to make machines substantially more intelligent. The impact of what they have proposed to explore and discover could be profound.

By supporting innovative and cutting-edge scientists, the Foundation is working to answer big, open questions of science that may be too risky, audacious or unproven for traditional sources of funding. The ADI program selects scientists who are tackling difficult but important problems, and who may not receive traditional funding that enables them to fully pursue solutions to those problems. With enough funds and support, these scientists are able to truly gain momentum in their respective fields. Support for early stage research is essential to achieving world-changing breakthroughs. As part of this competitive grant program, these ADIs have the potential to advance the state of human knowledge and push the boundary of AI.

Our research team at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence is looking forward to collaborating with the ADI teams, and more broadly, with the AI community in support of our mission of advancing AI for the common good.