UW News

December 3, 2014

Competitive award to fund new approaches to artificial intelligence work

UW News

Four University of Washington researchers have received the Allen Distinguished Investigator award for their work in artificial intelligence research. The awards, totaling about $2.7 million to the UW from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, will fund early stage research in several areas of artificial intelligence.

The recipients from the UW are Jeffrey Heer, an associate professor of computer science and engineering; Ali Farhadi, an assistant professor of computer science and engineering; Hannaneh Hajishirzi, a research scientist in electrical engineering; and Luke Zettlemoyer, an assistant professor of computer science and engineering.

A total of five project teams are funded in this year’s awards under the broad topics of machine reading, diagram interpretation and reasoning, and spatial and temporal reasoning. UW faculty members are involved with three of the projects.

Heer, along with a collaborator at the University of California, Berkeley, will develop computational models to help machines better understand data visualizations and diagrams to then extract useful data from those models.

Farhadi and Hajishirzi are trying to teach computers to interpret diagrams the same way children are taught in school. Similar to how students gradually learn and expand their knowledge and reasoning skills, the Spoon Feed Learning project learns relevant information from textbooks and uses that to collect new, more complex knowledge through visual identification, textual alignment and reasoning across different levels of complexity.

Zettlemoyer is building a new class of algorithms to extract scientific knowledge in fields such as chemistry and biology. His long-term goal is to allow a machine to automatically read any textbook, extract all of its knowledge, then use the information to pass a college-level exam on the subject matter.

Read the foundation’s news release.