Clayton State takes on AI
Fall 2017 | By Erin Fender
Artificial intelligence (AI) is no longer science fiction or part of a scientist’s dream. It is here and now. From Alexa to Siri to the Facebook app, AI has become part of our daily lives.
It was only six years ago, in 2011, that Apple introduced the beta version of Siri with the launch of the iPhone 4s. That same year, IBM’s Watson wowed audiences when he competed in Jeopardy!. He outperformed his competition to win the $1 million first place prize. In 2012, Watson attended medical school at Case Western Reserve University.
At the time, many could not have imagined the impact these events would have on the evolution of AI and machine learning.
Today, Watson is assisting physicians with patient diagnosis and identifying best methods of medical treatment. Meanwhile, Siri is connecting with her users, tailoring recommendations and responding to their individual needs.
These question-answering computing systems have revolutionized how information is accessed and how it is used.
AI and machine learning dominate various aspects of our world, accelerating and improving human life. Large industries such as supply chain, marketing and communication, and healthcare are using AI to innovate their operations.
It is estimated that between 2020 and 2060, supercomputers will surpass human capabilities in most areas, according to Scientific American.
Whether it’s virtual assistants, smart cars, online customer support through chat bots, or smart home devices that can dim your lights or turn on your oven, artificial intelligence has already begun to seep into the daily lives of consumers.
“Applications of AI have the potential to affect many aspects of our lives; medical diagnostics, identifying terrorists from social media posts, intelligent digital assistants
like Siri and Alexa, driverless cars, predictive analytics—the list goes on,” says Dr. Lila Roberts, dean of the College of Information and Mathematical Sciences (CIMS).
To that end, Clayton State is taking steps to prepare students for this rapidly evolving technology and to be at the forefront of AI’s emerging influence.
AI education starts at the micro level
Artificial intelligence is a branch of computer science that develops computers to simulate human-like intelligence and behaviors.
For artificial intelligence to operate, it must learn and develop dynamic algorithms, i.e. a sequence for a procedure or a series of actions a computer needs to solve a problem or reach a goal.
Clayton State students begin their study of AI coding using Sphero robotic balls.
“The robots allow the learning process to occur outside the normal setting of a computer monitor and keyboard,” says Dr. Angkul Kongmunvattana, department chair for computer science and information technology. “When students can learn the basics of coding using their mobile phones and robotic balls, it shows that the learning process can be both valuable and fun.”
As coding skills increase, students are able to solve fundamental problems of robot navigation similar to that of the driverless car. The goal is for students to make connections between their projects and real world applications.
“The pure logical thinking and systematical processes that go into programming are amazing. Going through a stretch of work and coming out with something functional fills you with this sense of accomplishment,” says Ugonna Iheanacho, senior computer science major.
Besides Sphero robots, wheeled robots called Lego MindStorms, or the College’s Nao (pronounced “now”) humanoid robots are all used in programming classes, including upper level courses for research projects in the area of artificial intelligence.
“AI is one area where the substance is truly worthy of the hype.” –Ken Simpson, enterprise product manager at The Coca-Cola Company.