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Celebrating 30 Years of AI at Michigan (1988 – 2018)

by Michigan AI Lab 

The Artificial Intelligence Laboratory was founded in 1988 as an outgrowth of the Computer Vision Research Lab (CVRL) as faculty involved in other aspects of AI had joined Michigan.

Ramesh Jain was its first Director, and the initial faculty members included Lynn Conway, Ed Durfee, John Holland, Keki Irani, Ramesh Jain, Steve Kaplan, Dave Kieras, John Laird, Steve Lytinen, Brian Schunck, Elliot Soloway, and Terry Weymouth. Ramesh Jain continued as the director as the scope of the lab broadened to encompass areas such as cognitive architectures, natural language processing, intelligent tutoring systems, genetic algorithms, logical reasoning, and multiagent planning. In 1992, Jain left and John Laird took over as Lab Director and set the stage for the AI Lab to flourish as a broad AI community.

The AI Lab originally shared the Advanced Technology Laboratory (ATL) building (now occupied by Biomedical Engineering) with the Advanced Computer Architecture Laboratory (ACAL), which subsequently moved to the EECS Building. ATL was originally the Printing Services building, and its large open basement area, which once held printing machinery, was a perfect home for various (large!) robotic systems, including a massive PUMA arm and many mobile robots. Faculty in other departments who worked on robotic systems shared the facilities.

From its inception, the AI Lab has taken a broad, integrated view of AI. For example, a collaboration between faculty and students involved in vision, planning, and robotics led to a team from Michigan winning the very first AAAI Mobile Robot Competition, in 1992. For the rest of the 1990’s, members of the AI Lab continued work on mobile robotics, including as part of DARPA-sponsored efforts to develop unmanned ground vehicles.

The AI Lab continued to grow from 1990 into the early 2000s, joined by new faculty members including Michael Wellman, Dan Koditschek, Martha Pollack, and Satinder Singh, and by faculty from other EECS research areas Bill Rounds, Bill Birmingham, and Greg Wakefield whose research interests drifted towards AI. Faculty continued to collaborate among themselves and with other units, including cross-campus projects on digital libraries and computer music.

In 2005, the AI Lab joined the rest of Computer Science in Engineering in the new Beyster Building, where it has grown to nearly 20 faculty and research staff.

The lab was directed by:
Ramesh Jain (1988-92), John Laird (1992-99),
Edmund Durfee (1999-01), Michael Wellman (2001-05),
John Laird (2005-06), Satinder Singh Baveja (2006-17),
Rada Mihalcea (2017-)