August 25, 2020 By Dr. Kai-Uwe Kühnberger 2 min read

In recent years, artificial intelligence has made enormous strides. AI is powering self-driving cars, furthering medical research, improving travel, facilitating logistics, mining big data—it’s assisting across every industry. Innovations in cognitive computing, machine learning, neural-symbolic reasoning and robotics will produce even more services, tools and support systems that can improve our daily lives.

To continue making AI progress, however, significant issues must be resolved. At University of Osnabrück and University of Konstanz, we are preparing young academics to meet these challenges using commercial AI technology provided by the IBM Academic Initiative and others.

A student journey with AI and robotics

Since 2016, the University of Osnabrück Institute of Cognitive Science has offered study projects that combine AI technologies in an interdisciplinary way. More than 100 students participated in projects like predicting flu epidemics from Twitter data, creating a digital tutor for neurobiology and enhancing the Pepper humanoid robot.

Cognitive robotics at the university involves the study of human-computer interactions and the integration of multiple services in a complex AI ecosystem. One project was programming Pepper to serve as a waiter at a cocktail party—able to talk to guests, take their drink orders, relay them to the bartender and return with the drinks.

Competencies to master include spatial navigation, robot vision, conversational abilities, contextual memory and the ability to recognize human speech. These test students on a number of levels.

Consider, for example, developing speech capabilities. Students must create the overall conversational structure for the party; develop a drink menu and an easy way to address it; make the robot sound friendly and human; create a database for the contextual memory; and integrate their work with other groups.

The students used IBM watsonx Assistant and the Python language to build the conversational structure. They created the drink menu in Java, deployed Redis for the in-memory database and tapped the Robot Operating System (ROS) for technology integration. After a semester, Pepper was ready to serve.

An exploration of AI in daily life

In another project, students from the University of Konstanz, HTWG Konstanz – University of Applied Sciences, and the Trossingen University of Music created an award-winning exhibit that explored the link between AI and everyday life. More than 60 students from architecture, history, communications and computer science collaborated on an interactive, multimedia tour to illuminate the interactions between AI and people.

Called “A link to AI,” the exhibit spanned four floors in a model of computer architecture, each floor representing one aspect of AI. Some 3,000 people attended over the two-month duration.

The exhibit explored AI through its representation in pop culture; historical context and current models of AI-human interaction; and AI in politics, the workplace, mobility, art and security along with related social issues.

It also gave visitors the chance to reflect on their experiences through ASKI, an interactive AI avatar. Developed and trained by the students using watsonx Assistant, ASKI could understand visitors’ questions, answer in natural language and enquire about their impressions of the tour.

Such projects bridge the gaps between cognitive science, AI technology and the humanities. They are helping students master issues that in the next decades will be of significant scientific, technological and social relevance—and our universities are proud to be part of this effort.

More from Artificial intelligence

How generative AI delivers value to insurance companies and their customers

4 min read - Insurers struggle to manage profitability while trying to grow their businesses and retain clients. They must comply with an increasing regulatory burden, and they compete with a broad range of financial services companies that offer investment products that have potential for better returns than traditional life insurance and annuity products. Although interest rates have increased at an unprecedented rate over the past year as central banks attempt to curb inflation, a significant part of insurers’ reserves are locked into low-yield…

How to build a successful employee experience strategy

4 min read - Ever since the pandemic changed the corporate world, organizations have rededicated themselves to excelling at employee experience strategy. A successful employee experience strategy (EX strategy) is the best way to recruit and retain top talent, as employees increasingly make decisions on where to work based on how they respond to employee needs. Organizations can prioritize overall employee experience by being thoughtful about how to serve their workers during all stages of the employee journey, from the hiring process to the…

Best practices for augmenting human intelligence with AI

2 min read - Artificial Intelligence (AI) should be designed to include and balance human oversight, agency, and accountability over decisions across the AI lifecycle. IBM’s first Principle for Trust and Transparency states that the purpose of AI is to augment human intelligence. Augmented human intelligence means that the use of AI enhances human intelligence, rather than operating independently of, or replacing it. All of this implies that AI systems are not to be treated as human beings, but rather viewed as support mechanisms…

IBM watsonx AI and data platform, security solutions and consulting services for generative AI to be showcased at AWS re:Invent

3 min read - According to a Gartner® report, “By 2026, more than 80% of enterprises will have used generative AI APIs or models, and/or deployed GenAI-enabled applications in production environments, up from less than 5% in 2023.”* However, to be successful they need the flexibility to run it on their existing cloud environments. That’s why we continue expanding the IBM and AWS collaboration, providing clients flexibility to build and govern their AI projects using the watsonx AI and data platform with AI assistants…

IBM Newsletters

Get our newsletters and topic updates that deliver the latest thought leadership and insights on emerging trends.
Subscribe now More newsletters