Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

Announcing the Sponsored Teams for the 2016-2017 Alexa Prize

On September 29, 2016, Amazon announced the Alexa Prize, a $2.5 million university competition to advance conversational AI through voice. We received applications from leading universities across 22 countries. Each application was carefully reviewed by senior Amazon personnel against a rigorous set of criteria covering scientific contribution, technical merit, novelty, and ability to execute. Teams of scientists, engineers, user experience designers, and product managers read, evaluated, discussed, argued, and finally selected the ten teams who would be invited to participate in the competition. Wait, make that twelve; we received so many good applications from graduate and undergraduate students that we decided to sponsor two additional teams.

Today, we’re excited to announce the 12 teams selected to compete with an Amazon sponsorship.


The Alexa Prize: $2.5M to Advance Conversational AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming ubiquitous. With advances in technology, algorithms, and sheer compute power, it is now becoming practical to utilize AI techniques in many everyday applications including transportation, healthcare, gaming, productivity, and media. Yet one seemingly intuitive task for humans still eludes computers: natural conversation. Simple and natural for humans, voice communication in everyday language continues to be one of the ultimate challenges for AI.

Today, we are pleased to announce the Alexa Prize, a $2.5 million university competition to advance conversational AI through voice. Teams of university students around the world are invited to participate in the Alexa Prize (see contest rules for details). The challenge is to create a socialbot, an Alexa skill that converses coherently and engagingly with humans on popular topics for 20 minutes. We challenge teams to invent an Alexa socialbot smart enough to engage in a fun, high quality conversation on popular topics for 20 minutes.

Are you up to the challenge?


Construction and Adaptation of AI Behaviors in Computer Games

Computer games are an increasingly popular application for Artificial Intelligence (AI) research, and conversely AI is an increasingly popular selling point for commercial digital games. AI for non playing characters (NPC) in computer games tends to come from people with computing skills well beyond the average user. The prime reason behind the lack of involvement of novice users in creating AI behaviors for NPC’s in computer games is that construction of high quality AI behaviors is a hard problem.

There are two reasons for it. First, creating a set of AI behavior requires specialized skills in design and programming. The nature of the process restricts it to certain individuals who have a certain expertise in this area. There is little understanding of how the behavior authoring process can be simplified with easy-to-use authoring environments so that novice users (without programming and design experience) can carry out the behavior authoring task. Second, the constructed AI behaviors have problems and bugs in them which cause a break in player expe- rience when the problematic behaviors repeatedly fail. It is harder for novice users to identify, modify and correct problems with the authored behavior sets as they do not have the necessary debugging and design experience.

The two issues give rise to a couple of interesting questions that need to be investigated: a) How can the AI behavior construction process be simplified so that a novice user (without program- ming and design experience) can easily conduct the authoring activity and b) How can the novice users be supported to help them identify and correct problems with the authored behavior sets? In this thesis, I explore the issues related to the problems highlighted and propose a solution to them within an application domain, named Second Mind(SM). In SM novice users who do not have expertise in computer programming employ an authoring interface to design behaviors for intelligent virtual characters performing a service in a virtual world. These services range from shopkeepers to museum hosts. The constructed behaviors are further repaired using an AI based approach.

To evaluate the construction and repair approach, we conduct experiments with human subjects. Based on developing and evaluating the solution, I claim that a design solution with behavior timeline based interaction design approach for behavior construction supported by an understandable vocabulary and reduced feature representation formalism enables novice users to author AI behaviors in an easy and understandable manner for NPCs performing a service in a virtual world. I further claim that an introspective reasoning approach based on comparison of successful and unsuccessful execution traces can be used as a means to successfully identify breaks in player experience and modify the failures to improve the experience of the player interacting with NPCs performing a service in a virtual world.

The work contributes in the following three ways by providing: 1) a novel introspective reasoning approach for successfully detecting and repairing failures in AI behaviors for NPCs performing a service in a virtual world.; 2) a novice user understandable authoring environment to help them create AI behaviors for NPCs performing a service in a virtual world in an easy and understandable manner; and 3) Design, debugging and testing scaffolding to help novice users modify their authored AI behaviors and achieve higher quality modified AI behaviors compared to their original unmodified behaviors.

Read the dissertation:

Construction and Adaptation of AI Behaviors in Computer Games

by Manish Mehta

PhD dissertation, College of Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology, August 2011.

Invention as an Opportunistic Enterprise

This paper identifies goal handling processes that begin to account for the kind of processes involved in invention. We identify new kinds of goals with special properties and mechanisms for processing such goals, as well as means of integrating opportunism, deliberation, and social interaction into goal/plan processes. We focus on invention goals, which address significant enterprises associated with an inventor. Invention goals represent “seed” goals of an expert, around which the whole knowledge of an expert gets reorganized and grows more or less opportunistically. Invention goals reflect the idiosyncrasy of thematic goals among experts. They constantly increase the sensitivity of individuals for particular events that might contribute to their satisfaction.

Our exploration is based on a well-documented example: the invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell. We propose mechanisms to explain: (1) how Bell’s early thematic goals gave rise to the new goals to invent the multiple telegraph and the telephone, and (2) how the new goals interacted opportunistically. Finally, we describe our computational model, ALEC, that accounts for the role of goals in invention.

Invention as an Opportunistic Enterprise

by Marin Simina, Janet Kolodner, Ashwin Ram, Michael Gorman

19th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, Stanford, CA, August 1997

A Functional Theory of Creative Reading: Process, Knowledge, and Evaluation

Reading is a complex cognitive behavior, making use of dozens of tasks to achieve comprehension. As such, it represents an important aspect of general cognition; the benefits of having a theory of reading would be far-reaching. Additionally, there is an aspect of reading which has been largely ignored by the research, namely, reading appears to encompass a creative process. In this dissertation, I present a theory capable of explaining creative reading. There are not separate reading behaviors, some mundane and some creative; instead, all of reading must be understood as a creative process. Therefore, a comprehensive theory of reading and creativity is needed. Unfortunately, although the scientific study of reading has been undertaken for almost a century, it is often done in a piecemeal fashion–that is, the research has often concentrated on a narrow aspect of reading behavior. This is due, to some degree, to the fact that reading is a huge process–however, it is my belief that failing to consider the complete reading process will limit the research, Thus, in my work, I identify a set of tasks which sufficiently covers the reading process for short narratives. Together, these tasks form the basis of a functional theory of reading.

Using the reading framework to support the research, I produced a theory of creative understanding, which is the process by which novel concepts come to be understood by a reasoner. To accomplish this, I created a taxonomy of novelty types, I produced a knowledge representation and ontology of sufficient flexibility to permit the representation of a wide-range of conceptual forms, and I created an interlocking set of four tasks which act together to produce the behavior–memory retrieval, analogical mapping, base-constructive analogy, and problem reformulation. My technique for base-constructive analogy is one of the more unique features of my work; it permits existing concepts to be combined in ways which enable novel concepts to be understood. In addition to that, the theory provides for reasonable bounding to occur on the process of creative understanding through a set of heuristics associated with the ontology. This allows reasonable bounding to occur while greatly reducing the possibility of non-useful understandings.

The theory of creative reading is instantiated in a computer model, the ISAAC system, which reads and comprehends short science fiction stories. The model has allowed me to perform empirical evaluation, providing an important stage in the overall theory revision cycle. The evaluation demonstrated that ISAAC can answer independently-generated comprehension questions about a set of science fiction stories with skill comparable to a group of college students. This result, along with an analysis of the internal workings of the model enables me to claim that my theory of creative reading is sufficient to explain important aspects of the behavior.

Read the thesis:

A functional theory of creative reading: Process, knowledge, and evaluation

by Kenneth Moorman

PhD Thesis, College of Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, 1997

The Role of Ontology in Creative Understanding

Successful creative understanding requires that a reasoner be able to manipulate known concepts in order to understand novel ones. A major problem arises, however, when one considers exactly how these manipulations are to be bounded. If a bound is imposed which is too loose, the reasoner is likely to create bizarre understandings rather than useful creative ones. On the other hand, if the bound is too tight, the reasoner will not have the flexibility needed to deal with a wide range of creative understanding experiences. Our approach is to make use of a principled ontology as one source of reasonable bounding. This allows our creative understanding theory to have good explanatory power about the process while allowing the computer implementation of the theory (the ISAAC system) to be flexible without being bizarre in the task domain of reading science fiction short stories.

Read the paper:

The Role of Ontology in Creative Understanding

by Kenneth Moorman, Ashwin Ram

18th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci-96), San Diego, CA, July 1996

Understanding the Creative Mind

Margaret Boden, a master at bring ideas from artificial intelligence and cognitive science to the masses, has done it again. In The Creative Mind: Myths and Mechanisms (published by Routledge, 2003), she has produced a well-written, well-argued review and synthesis of current computational theories relevant to creativity. This book seems appropriately pitched for students in survey courses and for the intelligent lay public. And if ever there were a topic suitable for bridging the gap between researchers adh the layperson, this is surely it: What is creativity, and how is it possible? Or, in computational terms (the terms that Boden argoes ought to be applied), what are the processes of creativity?

We believe that in order to analyze creative reasoning, one needs a theoretical framework in which to model thinking. To this end, we propose using a computational approach rooted in case-based reasoning. This paradigm is fundamentally concerned with memory issues, such as remindings from partial matches at varying levels of representation and the formation of analogical maps between seemingly disparate situations—exactly the kinds of phenomena that researchers up to, and including, Boden have highlighted as central to creativity.

Our research suggests that creativity is not a process in itself that can be turned on or off; rather, it arises from the confluence and complex interaction of inferences using multiple kinds of knowledge in the context of a task or problem and in the context of a specific situation. Much of what we think of as “creativity” arises from interesting strategic control of these inferences and their integration in the context of a task and situation.

These five aspects—inferences, knowledge, task, situation, and control—are not special or unique to creativity but are part of normal everyday thinking. They determine the thinkable, the thoughts the reasoner might normally have when addressing a problem or performing a task. In a specific individual, more creative thoughts will likely result when these pieces come together in a novel way to yield unexplored and unexpected paths that go “beyond the thinkable”.

Read the full review:

Understanding the Creative Mind

by Ashwin Ram, Linda Wills, Eric Domeshek, Nancy Nersessian, Janet Kolodner

Artificial Intelligence journal, 79(1):111-128, 1995