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Microsoft Research at IJCAI 2016: Developing technologies that allow people and machines to collaborate

July 8, 2016 | By Microsoft blog editor

Managing Director, Microsoft Research Eric Horvitz photographed on December 21, 2015. (Photography by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures)

By Eric Horvitz, Managing Director, Microsoft Research

We are excited to once again support the 25th International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI), which runs Saturday, July 9, through Friday, July 15, in New York City.  IJCAI is a leading international conference in the field of artificial intelligence and is the main AI summer conference, now that the AAAI meeting has moved to winter.

This year’s conference comes at a time when AI is playing an increasingly important role in the world.  AI has been a hotbed of research and development and the fruits of these efforts will have numerous benefits for people and society.  Along with the enthusiasm have come questions about potential challenges and rough edges, and a rise of concerns—with some people expressing worries that resonate with themes portrayed for decades in science fiction.  It’s been great to see AI experts as well as the greater public engaged in discussions about short-term and long-term AI futures.

IJCAI comes right after a set of workshops that were organized by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) with academic partners.  The rationale for the workshops, according to Ed Felton, a Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer (and long-term colleague and professor at Princeton), in a blog entitled “Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence,” is to address opportunities in AI. Says Felton, “There are tremendous opportunities and an array of considerations across the Federal Government in privacy, security, regulation, law, and research and development to be taken into account when effectively integrating this technology into both government and private-sector activities.”

For the OSTP workshops, I accepted two interesting invitations: to first share reflections in a keynote on the promise of AI (presentation on AI and social good) at the OSTP workshop on AI for Social Good in Washington, DC and to later present on AI and safety (presentation on AI and safety) at the OSTP workshop on Safety and Control of AI at Carnegie Mellon University.

Both of my presentations touched on the importance of developing technologies that allow people and machines to collaborate with fluency and fluidity to solve problems and ensure safety.  At a workshop co-located with IJCAI, I’ll be following up on these ideas in a keynote on directions with human-computer collaboration.  At another workshop on richer roles for humans in machine learning, Rich Caruana will be presenting on strategies for teaching computers, that goes beyond simple labeling strategies.  Later in the week, Microsoft Research’s Ece Kamar will be honored as a young investigator with an IJCAI Early Career presentation on methods that support collaboration between humans and machines.

In addition to these talks, Microsoft Research will be presenting numerous technical papers at IJCAI, providing a deep learning tutorial, supporting workshops on scholarly big data and human-agent interaction design, as well as giving a demonstration of Microsoft’s Project Malmo, a platform for AI experimentation within the world of Minecraft.

Before ending, I’d like to acknowledge those colleagues who invest great amounts of time in doing peer review to ensure the quality of the work that is published. Andrey Kolobov received his third Outstanding Program Committee Member recognition for his work on reviewing papers and providing feedback at IJCAI.  We don’t celebrate this kind of essential work enough, which is essential to the success and vibrancy of our field.

I’m looking forward to IJCAI and hope to have a chance to catch up with colleagues there.  Microsoft Research will have a booth in the exhibition hall. Please feel free to stop by and chat with our researchers about projects and opportunities at Microsoft Research and at Microsoft more broadly.

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