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Researchers Present Artificial Intelligence Project in Little Rock

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by Jeremy Peppas

Seven colleges and universities from around Arkansas gathered on Friday, Feb. 15, in Little Rock for a demonstration of artificial intelligence in an event that was hosted by the Arkansas State University System office in Little Rock.

Arkansas State University Chancellor Dr. Kelly Damphousse welcomed the crowd and noted that eight projects were going to demonstrated.

“We going to advance this discipline by working together,” Damphousse said of the seven schools that make up the AI-Arkansas Campus. “We are on the cusp of doing something special.”

The schools are: Arkansas State, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Philander Smith, Arkansas Tech, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and the University of Arkansas.

Also speaking was Dr. Tim Burcham who is a double dean at Arkansas State and serves as the head of Engineering & Computer Science and Agriculture & Technology.

Burcham said AI has its downsides but that “AI is working for us. It has made our life more productive today.”

Dr. Xiuzhen Huang at Arkansas State is Director of the AI-Arkansas Campus and said, “we need AI” as data grows and becomes larger, it will turn unmanageable by humans alone.

“AI will change our life, but it will not replace our life,” she said. “Not now. Not in the future.”

An oft-cited example is self-driving vehicles. Commercial airliners are, for the most, going through the sky on auto-pilot, yet they still have a crew of human pilots and as the technology grows, the pilots will remain. The same, for example, would be true of long-haul trucks and the need for commercial drivers manning those vehicles.

Of the eight projects that were on display on Friday, two were on self-driving vehicles and how they would work in the real world with an emphasis on image recognition with examples ranging from how cars and trucks look different when viewed from other angles to being able to distinguish objects in bright sunlight to what things look like in the dark.

While it is incredibly complex, a human can quickly determine a bicyclist on the road from the shadow of the same. A self-driving car would need to able to do the same and in a fraction of a second. While that is true of driving in a city, Burcham said later that Cadillac had made real advances in self-driving vehicles with a feature called “super cruise” for long drives on an Interstate.

Burcham said Cadillac had created three-dimensional maps of major roads in the United States and that allowed cars equipped with that feature to be driven “hands-free” across the country.

A 2018 article in the Chicago Tribune, reported on a driver using the feature to travel from Florida to Chicago, some 1,200 miles, that the writer said was stress free and a way to “avoid domestic flying.”

Other projects showcased were: medical imaging, natural language processing, genomics, agricultural data analysis and web service systems.

Arkansas State’s Wei Zhou presented on AI in agriculture and how machine learning will lead to better soybeans while UALR’s Evan Xiangwen Liu focused on how AI would break down language barriers with quick and accurate translating.

The key, Liu said, was “data” and inputting the vast amount of news articles, like this one, and categorizing the words and phrases in those stories so they could be understood in context.

READ MORE: Artificial Intelligence Projects to be Showcased

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