UTS launches AI research centre

Centre for Artificial Intelligence will explore theoretical and practical applications

University of Technology Sydney (UTS) has opened a new research centre for artificial intelligence.

The UTS:CAI is made up of five research laboratories focused on: data science and knowledge discovery; knowledge infrastructure; computational intelligence and brain computer interfaces; decision systems and e-service intelligence; and the so-called ‘Magic Lab’, which looks at disruptive technologies like socially-aware robots.

It is one of two centres to be spun out of the university’s Centre for Quantum Computation & Intelligent Systems which was founded in 2008, the other being the Centre for Quantum Software and Information. There are currently 108 Higher Degree by Research students within UTS:CAI.

At the new centre’s opening event on Friday, NSW chief scientist and engineer Mary O’Kane said that artificial intelligence had become a mainstream endeavour after years in the left-field.

O’Kane started her academic career in AI at UTS (then the NSW Institute of Technology in Sydney) and remembered her colleagues as “one of the best and most creative and certainly the liveliest artificial intelligence groups in Australia in terms of just sheer madness”.

“There were those of us who felt we were on the far fringe of academic endeavor. We were a mad group off to the side. A bit like the people doing algae at the moment. You know, people far out there, right off,” she said. “But you knew, just like the algae people know now that the future is theirs, we knew that the future was ours in AI. It’s moved very mainstream.”

The centre’s director is distinguished professor Jie Lu. Distinguished professor Chin-Teng Lin serves as co-director.

Speaking at the launch UTS’ deputy vice-chancellor Professor Glenn Wightwick said AI research was now bearing fruit.

“AI is an area that has been very active in computer science through the years. [But it] was one of those areas that promised a lot but really hadn’t delivered,” he said.

“Today AI has emerged as an incredibly important topic both at the theoretical level and in the applied sense. It’s an area which is proving to have many uses in industry and has the potential to make an important and significant difference to our lives.”

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