MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
Research Abstracts — 2000


The Artificial Intelligence Laboratory has been an active entity at MIT in one form or another since at least 1959. Our goal is to understand the nature of intelligence and to engineer systems that exhibit intelligence. We are an interdisciplinary laboratory of over 200 people that spans several academic departments and has active projects ongoing with members of every academic school at MIT.

These pages are a collection of two page abstracts of many of the research projects being carried out at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and at the Center for Biological and Computational Learning. The latter, CBCL, is an interdisciplinary center within MIT's Brain and Cognitive Science Department—members of CBCL are all affiliated with the AI Laboratory.

Our intellectual goal is to understand how the human mind works. We believe that vision, robotics, and language are the keys to understanding intelligence, and as such our laboratory is much more heavily biased in these directions than many other Artificial Intelligence laboratories.

Our mode of operation is to attack theoretical issues and application areas at the same time. Even for theory however, we like to build experimental systems to test out ideas. We have significantly increased our activities over the last two years in both Foundations of Artificial Intelligence and Learning and Applied Artificial Intelligence and Learning. We have returned to some fundamental theoretical and application questions in Mobile Robotics, and have grown our work in Biologically Inspired Robots and Models. The latter ranges from the mechanics of humanoid robots, through implementations of cognitive models on those same robots, to computational implementations of theories of human processes. The laboratory continues to be strong in developing new Vision Techniques and we have developed very strong programs in two application areas: Medical Vision, and Vision and Sound Applied to People and Activity. The merging in of acoustic processing with visual processing is a new area for us and holds much promise for cross disambiguation. Along with vision we are also continuing work in Medical Robotics— some of our earlier work has gone on to become key technologies in new publically traded companies. As we explore ubiquitous human-centered computation, we are developing many new tools to provide Computational Support for People in their everyday life and work. Lastly, we continue to innovate in the fundamental area of New Models of Computation, the basis of the technologies we will all use daily in another thirty years.

While these areas provide a mixture of theoretical and applied research, it is worth thinking a little on the proper role of a place like the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. I believe that as in the past forty years, it should continue to pull the research directions of the rest of the world. Our strength is not in getting products to market, even for early adopters. That is best left to spin-off companies, which we regularly produce, and to the national laboratories that can take our innovations and integrate them into large working systems. Sometimes outsiders get confused and think that everything we do should have immediate application. If we had stuck to that model since our inception, many of today's technologies would not exist, as so many of them had their first expressions here at the AI Lab in barely viable exploratory projects. Likewise, as researchers, we should not let ourselves be swayed too much by the need to build applications, but should remain bold and fearless and tackle the really difficult problems—they are where there is most ultimate pay off.

Our research is financed by many patient and generous sponsors. Critically and historically, DARPA and ONR provide the vast majority of our research support. More recently, NTT has become a major sponsor of the AI Lab's work. Over the last year we have joined forces with the Laboratory for Computer Science in MIT Project Oxygen. Many of the projects in these pages are parts of Oxygen—sponsored by DARPA, Acer, Delta, Hewlett-Packard, Philips, Nokia and NTT. Other sponsors, large and small, are essential to our endeavor, both for their financial contributions and in that they provide us with a diversity of requirements and points of interaction, both of which enrich our research. The support of all our sponsors is gratefully acknowledged.

Rodney A. Brooks
Director, AI Lab
September, 2000

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