AAAI 2011 Wrap-Up

So I didn’t post an update about the AAAI 2011 conference every day, but really, this is more posts than I would have predicted with my prior model of my behaviour so it’s pretty good. I also wrote a separate post talking about the Computational Sustainability track.

This is just a few quick few notes about the events at AAAI this year and my own biased view of what was hot. But keep in mind there is  such a broad set of papers, presentations, posters and demos from a huge number of brilliant people that its impossible for one person to give you a full view of what went on.  I encourage you to look over the program here, and read the papers that interest you.

From the conference talks I attended and the people I talked to people were most excited about:

  • Learning Relationships from Social Networks – lots of fascinating work here including one of the invited talks.  Kind of ironic though that so few AAAI11 attendees seem to use social media like twitter during the conference. You can take a look at #aaa11 (and even #aaai and #aaai2011) for the limited chatter there was.
  • Planning with UCT and bandit problems
  • Microtext (I don’t know what that is but it’s apparently fascinating)
  • Computational Social Choice – a Borda manipulation proof won outstanding paper in this track.
  • Multiagent Systems applied to everything
  • Computational Sustainability
  • Natural Language Processing – especially from blogs and social media
  • and everyone I talked to seems to agree that Watson was pretty awesome
The poster session was very full and lots of great discussion ensued. Note for future attendees, best food of the conference was at the posters, by far, go for the food, stay for the Artificial Intelligence.
There were a number of robot demos as well, the fantastic PR2 platform was being demonstrated with an algorithm where users could train it to identify and manipulate household items like dishes and cups.  There were also a number of chess playing robots playing in competition, designed to be played against a human using vision to detect moves and locate pieces.
There was also a lot else going on I didn’t get to: The AI in Education track, a poker playing competition, IAAI the applied AI conference held in parrallel with AAAI and probably lots more.
To top it off, on Thursday morning those of us staying in the hotel were awakened to bull horns and shouted slogans. I had almost hoped that someone had arranged a protest spawned by the frightening advance of Artificial Intelligence and they had come to demand we stop our research immediately to avoid the inevitable enslavement/destruction/unemployment/ingestion of humanity by the machines. Not that this would be a valid concern or that I want to stop researching, but it would have provided some kind of strange vindication that the public thinks we are advancing.
Unfortunately it was actually a labour dispute between the Hyatt and some of its staff, they marched in front of the main entrance from 7am-7pm the entire final day of the conference.
Best overheard quote:
You care about AI more than our jobs!
I’m pretty sure most attendees didn’t have a predefined utility for comparing those two entities. Hopefully they work it out.
All in all, a great conference in a great city.

A week in San Francisco at AAAI

This week I’m in San Francisco attending AAAI11 – the 2011 Conference of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence.  It’s the largest and broadest AI Conference held every year. I’ll be trying to post up my thoughts and observations here each day about what I’m seeing at the conference.  For more immediate thoughts I’ll probably just post to Google+ (you can find me gplus.to/crowley, if you’re not on yet you can join using my invites here.). That would be a great place to discuss what’s going on in real time or for people to meet up.

I’m very excited for this year’s AAAI because:

a) I’m presenting a paper on my thesis research on thursday (10:20am session – how can you resist a catchy title like “Policy Gradient Planning for Environmental Decision Making with Existing Simulators”? Also, the paper before me is listed as an “Outstanding Paper”, so at least you’ll see that.)

b) This is a very exciting time for AI research. There are lots of reasons for this but for me two exciting new fields where AI is being applied in new ways which are featured prominently in this year’s AAAI conference: Social Media and Sustainability.

I don’t know much about AI applied to social media so that will be fascinating to find out about.

There is a special track this year on Computational Sustainability which is a new field which focusses on applying machine learning, probabilistic modeling and optimization techniques to very challenging environmental problems.  This is the track my paper is in. It will be really interesting to meet with lots of people trying to use AI to better the world.

Watch this space.

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