$10 M grant boosts Georgia State’s research in edge computing, AI and robotics

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$10 M grant boosts Georgia State’s research in edge computing, AI and robotics

Jonathan Shihao Ji, a computer science professor at Georgia State University, has been awarded a $10 million grant from the Department of Defense (DoD). The grant aims to tackle challenges in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, focusing on edge computing, human-robot interaction, 3D virtual environment reconstruction and trustworthyAI.

With AI becoming increasingly pervasive, fueling search engines, voice assistants and self-driving cars, Ji believes it has untapped potential and claims that AI is the “new electricity” that will transform industries in the coming years.

“The award of the CoE-ACS represents the culmination of years of boundary-pushing research, which has spanned Dr. Ji’s time at Georgia State and in industry,” says Sara Rosen, the dean of the College of Arts & Sciences.

“I am excited to see this research taken to the next level, and am thrilled that Georgia State is a player in advancing the frontiers of AI and robotics.”

The research team at Georgia State includes professor Anu Bourgeois, assistant professor Yi Ding and professor Balasubramaniam Ramesh.

The grant will support the establishment of the Center of Excellence in Advanced Computing and Software (CoE-ACS). Collaborating with researchers from Duke’s Athena NSF AI Institute and partners from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, the CoE-ACS will work with GSU students and professors.

The funding will also support Ph.D. and undergraduate students and post-doctoral researchers over five years. The team plans to also partner with local high schools to promote interest in AI and robotics.

One aspect of the center’s research focuses on utilizing Boston Dynamics’ Spot dog-like robot to advance AI technology. They aim to develop a natural language interface for Spot, enabling it to perform various tasks based on verbal commands.

“We’ll be able to tell Spot, ‘Please go to the kitchen and see if the fridge door is closed properly. If not, please close it,’ and Spot should be able to understand it and do that on its own,” Ji says.

They also plan to train Spot to navigate different environments using a 3D virtual simulator. Ji explains that this could be useful in potentially hazardous scenarios like search and rescue, facility maintenance and emergency response, where human involvement might be risky.

“We can build a 3D virtual environment and train Spot in that environment then transfer the knowledge learned from the simulator into the real world,” Ji adds.

The center will also prioritize enhancing AI device and system security by exploring edge computing solutions. This involves storing and processing data locally on devices to decrease the risk of data leakage. One of the projects aims to create smaller and more power-efficient models for processing data. Duke’s Athena Research Institute will collaborate with the GSU Center to address privacy and security challenges in AI and robotics.

Professor Yiran Chen, who leads the Athena NSF AI Institute, also expresses excitement about the longstanding collaboration between his team and colleagues at Georgia State.

“We eagerly anticipate a more productive partnership within this new center of excellence,” Chen states.

The research will also focus on developing machine learning algorithms to enhance human-computer interaction. It will involve teaching AI to understand humans through methods such as human voices and virtual reality goggles. Visual demonstrations will be explored in the next research phase, allowing robots to learn tasks like picking up a water bottle through real-world demos.

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