Yahoo research uses artificial intelligence everywhere

Updated: Jan 22 2007, 07:32am hrs
Artificial Intelligence (AI), the study of methods by which a computer can simulate aspects of human intelligence, is fast emerging as a major research trend among the scientific community. A major focus area is to design a computer that might be able to reason for itself. Facilitating the research at Yahoo! Research is Ronald J Brachman, vice-president of Worldwide Research Operations. He has developed cornerstone ideas with a number of contributions in the area of AI. While the companys main laboratory is based out of Santa Clara, Brachman has founded another lab in New York. A Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery, he was recently awarded the Donald E Walker Distinguished Service Award for 2007. Explaining the growing trends for AI in various applications, Brachman stresses that this form of science can be used for long-term aspirations. Excerpts from a recent interview with BV Mahalakshmi:

Why is there is so much talk on artificial intelligence (AI) globally How does this system of learning help in developing intelligent systems

Artificial intelligence is about understanding intelligent behaviour in machines and converting them to natural languages. We want to produce PCs that can perform natural language conversations. Moreover, it helps in planning ahead for the human activities in various applications. Indeed, it is not as simple as cracking a human genome as we dont understand intelligence as the human brain is so complex. But, we do have desires to build systems with AI, which is a futuristic vision. AI is a form of science having a potential for long-term aspirations like making computers more intelligent.

How did the study of AI originate What is its history

It started during the ages of great philosophers such as Aristotle, Descartes and Bertrand Russel, while thinking about Mathematics along with reasoning. During the 20th century, digital computers were used, which had a thinking program followed by development of an ideal test to test computers if they were intelligent or not.

In 1956, the term AI was used. In fact, we are celebrating 50 years for AI research that has made mind a central processor. In the mid 60s, considerable research was initiated in the field. It was an year of idealism of vision and creating a robot was very big. Initially, researchers were very nave about AI. A lot of technical work had to be done and the 90s saw a rich kind of technical science. However, there are still ambiguities with a lot of probabilities.

How do you propose to develop your India R&D centre What will be its focus area

Yahoo! R&D provides innovative technologies, global product platforms and evolves new market initiatives to create new business advantages for Yahoo! Inc. While the Product Engineering Group builds global platforms and applications, the Technology Research Group builds high value technologies that improve or change user behaviour using newer technology platforms that can be leveraged across the board. The Market Innovation Group aims at establishing value propositions prototyping, market testing and channeling new technologies.

AI is being used in every part of Yahoos research especially since we collect over 12 terabytes of data everyday. The company tries to use this available data to make the user experience more meaningful without violating users privacy. The activities of the Bangalore R&D centre are centered on building global internet applications. The key focus areas are: vertical search applicationsimage search, desktop search, audio search, job search and mobile search; community focused applicationsblogs, avatars, message boards, youth; enterprise class applicationsadvertising platform and hot jobs; data mining applications.

What is the AIs future and how does your company propose to capitalise on this

Internet is important in peoples life. We want to improve customers experience using AI science. In Asia, the research is on for machine learning and trying to learn programs or better tools to support a community. We deal with 12 terabytes a day in our company and our main source is advertising. Similarly, we want to create a package deal for advertisers as it is impossible to do it manually and can be done with intelligent machines.

AI has a broad impact on the worldly needs. It helps in improving healthcare delivery, disaster and rescue management, language translation, building robots, etc. Above all, it helps you plan better.