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What’s Next for AI Research? (Annotated)

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The research that fuels the AI revolution has also seen rapid changes. Foremost among them is the maturation of machine learning, stimulated in part by the rise of the digital economy, which both provides and leverages large amounts of data. Other factors include the rise of cloud computing resources and consumer demand for widespread access to services such as speech recognition and navigation support.

Machine learning has been propelled dramatically forward by impressive empirical successes of artificial neural networks, which can now be trained with huge data sets and large-scale computing. This approach has been come to be known as “deep learning.” The leap in the performance of information processing algorithms has been accompanied by significant progress in hardware technology for basic operations such as sensing, perception, and object recognition. New platforms and markets for data-driven products, and the economic incentives to find new products and markets, have also stimulated research advances. Now, as it becomes a central force in society, the field of AI is shifting toward building intelligent systems that can collaborate effectively with people, and that are more generally human-aware, including creative ways to develop interactive and scalable ways for people to teach robots. These trends drive the currently “hot” areas of AI research into both fundamental methods and application areas:

Large-scale machine learning concerns the design of learning algorithms, as well as scaling existing algorithms, to work with extremely large data sets.

Deep learning, a class of learning procedures, has facilitated object recognition in images, video labeling, and activity recognition, and is making significant inroads into other areas of perception, such as audio, speech, and natural language processing.

Reinforcement learning is a framework that shifts the focus of machine learning from pattern recognition to experience-driven sequential decision-making. It promises to carry AI applications forward toward taking actions in the real world. While largely confined to academia over the past several decades, it is now seeing some practical, real-world successes.

Robotics is currently concerned with how to train a robot to interact with the world around it in generalizable and predictable ways, how to facilitate manipulation of objects in interactive environments, and how to interact with people. Advances in robotics will rely on commensurate advances to improve the reliability and generality of computer vision and other forms of machine perception.

Computer vision is currently the most prominent form of machine perception. It has been the sub-area of AI most transformed by the rise of deep learning. For the first time, computers are able to perform some vision tasks better than people. Much current research is focused on automatic image and video captioning.

Natural Language Processing, often coupled with automatic speech recognition, is quickly becoming a commodity for widely spoken languages with large data sets. Research is now shifting to develop refined and capable systems that are able to interact with people through dialog, not just react to stylized requests. Great strides have also been made in machine translation among different languages, with more real-time person-to-person exchanges on the near horizon.

Collaborative systems research investigates models and algorithms to help develop autonomous systems that can work collaboratively with other systems and with humans.

Crowdsourcing and human computation research investigates methods to augment computer systems by making automated calls to human expertise to solve problems that computers alone cannot solve well.

Algorithmic game theory and computational social choice draw attention to the economic and social computing dimensions of AI, such as how systems can handle potentially misaligned incentives, including self-interested human participants or firms and the automated AI-based agents representing them.

Internet of Things (IoT) research is devoted to the idea that a wide array of devices, including appliances, vehicles, buildings, and cameras, can be interconnected to collect and share their abundant sensory information to use for intelligent purposes.

Neuromorphic computing is a set of technologies that seek to mimic biological neural networks to improve the hardware efficiency and robustness of computing systems, often replacing an older emphasis on separate modules for input/output, instruction-processing, and memory.

Cite This Report

Peter Stone, Rodney Brooks, Erik Brynjolfsson, Ryan Calo, Oren Etzioni, Greg Hager, Julia Hirschberg, Shivaram Kalyanakrishnan, Ece Kamar, Sarit Kraus, Kevin Leyton-Brown, David Parkes, William Press, AnnaLee Saxenian, Julie Shah, Milind Tambe, and Astro Teller.  "Artificial Intelligence and Life in 2030." One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence: Report of the 2015-2016 Study Panel, Stanford University, Stanford, CA,  September 2016. Doc: Accessed:  September 6, 2016.

Report Authors

AI100 Standing Committee and Study Panel 


© 2016 by Stanford University. Artificial Intelligence and Life in 2030 is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 License (International):