Last year’s fifty’s anniversary of Artificial Intelligence sparked discussions about the results of AI research. Many advances already became so mainstream that they are not visible anymore. Fuzzy control in washing machines is a famous and often cited success story, but by far not the only one. AI research also led to view software development in a new light, e.g., modelling became a commodity.
But where is AI heading?
I am a firm believer in weak AI. (“Weak AI refers to the use of software to study or accomplish specific problem solving or reasoning tasks that do not encompass […] the full range of human cognitive abilities.” [Wikipedia]) Maybe at some point in the far future some intelligent behaviour emerges from the development and use of complex information systems, but I don’t think we are capable of understanding what intelligence is and how to create intelligent machines in the first place. I believe in further developing many more decision support systems, each very specialised but on the other hand better integrated with the environment and with improved communication abilities. I do not talk about spoken language understanding capabilities here but of more intelligent user interfaces in general.
In my opinion, research on intelligent user interfaces is an important topic. Intelligent user interfaces rely on symbolic reasoning as only symbolic reasoning allows for explanation capabilities, which in turn are the basis for improved understanding and, thus, a better synchronisation of knowledge of the user and the information system. It is probably worthwhile to look into hybrid approaches where sub-symbolic reasoning engines are supported by symbolic reasoners that can interpret what the sub-symbolic reasoner is doing. But this is outside the scope of my explanation research.
Software systems get embedded more and more in electronic devices providing contextual and personalised information. New opportunities arise for supporting everyday activities. For example, GPS-enabled digital cameras already provide the necessary position metadata to place photos on GoogleMaps or create other Web 2.0 mash-ups. And powerful mobile devices such as Apple’s upcoming iPhone lets me wonder what one could intelligently do with it. So it will surely play an important part in my upcoming FP7 project proposal.
User centric design, personalisation, context, social software are topics addressed by our research department for quite some time. Their importance is visible in and through our projects as well as the Competence Center Computational Culture and the newly created Competence Center Human Centered Visualisation HCV.