In May 2018, CMU (Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh) announced that it is offering, what is believed to be*, the first undergraduate degree in Artificial Intelligence in North America. It will be a B.S. in AI (BSAI).
Artificial intelligence is changing the way we work, play, and live. We interact with AI every day, even though we may not realise it. Think Siri or Alexa. Smart offices. Self-driving cars. Music recommendations. IoT devices everywhere from hospitals and transportation hubs to the factory floor. AI is the embodiment of the intelligent digital edge and its impact is growing exponentially right alongside the demand for AI specialists. This new undergraduate degree is designed to address the increasing need for talent in the incredibly tight AI job market.
The leaders in AI have been the movers and shakers in the tech industry. Think Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Uber. They’re fuelling the demand for AI expertise.
“Specialists in artificial intelligence have never been more important, in shorter supply or in greater demand by employers,” according to Andrew Moore, Dean of the School of Computer Science. “Carnegie Mellon has unmatched depth of expertise in AI, making us uniquely qualified to address this need for graduates who understand how the power of AI can be leveraged to help people.”
A statement from the university says the new AI program is intended to give students in-depth understanding of “ways to transform large amounts of data into actionable decisions.”
The program is intended to educate students to think broadly about methods that can accomplish a wide variety of tasks across many disciplines, said Reid Simmons, Research Professor of Robotics and Computer Science and director of the new AI degree program. It will focus more on how complex inputs like vision, language, and huge databases can be used “to make decisions or enhance human capabilities,” he explained in a statement. But he also says the curriculum will include classes on ethics and social responsibility to encourage students to use AI for social good, such as healthcare and transportation.
“We believe that students will be well prepared for graduate work in AI and related disciplines, such as machine learning, robotics and language technologies. The coursework will give students a very solid foundation in math, statistics and computer science, along with a comprehensive exposure to the breadth of subjects in artificial intelligence, including symbolic and probabilistic reasoning, search and planning, graphical models, robotics, computer vision, language understanding, and human-AI interaction. Students will learn the fundamental theory behind these subjects, along with how to use and develop AI techniques. Many opportunities will be available for undergraduates to do research, which will further help prepare them for graduate work.”
The Original Tech Incubator
For more than half a century, CMU has been at the forefront of computer science and AI. The first AI computer program, Logic Theorist, was developed there in 1956. The school launched the first computer programming course in 1958, the world’s first PhD program in robotics as well as the world’s first Machine Learning Department. In 1982, grad students developed the first IoT device, a Coca Cola vending machine that checked stock and measured temperature. The school has always been ahead of the tech curve and it still is. In 2018, U.S. News and World Report ranked CMU’s School of Computer Science (SCS) as the number one graduate school for artificial intelligence in the USA. Now it will be the number one school for undergrads as well.
The program, set to begin in autumn 2018, will only accept 100 students who can choose AI as a major after their first year. So that’s about 30-35 students per year. Competition for spots will be tough as SCS enrols approximately 700-750 students a year. That means the AI program will account for only about four percent of newly enrolled students.
CMU is known as a hotbed of talent and student start-ups and spin-offs are common. On graduation or before, student AI projects may end up in commercial applications. CMU’s Centre for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation helps undergrads and grad students take student projects to market.
The Tech Talent Grab
Pittsburgh is also a hotbed for talent in the tech industry. The city is home to CMU’s Robotics Institute and its National Robotics Engineering Centre, which develops robotics solutions from concept to commercialisation. CMU’s Entertainment Technology Centre is also a geek haven and has been called the Disneyland of video game schools and interactive entertainment.
Adding to the mix in Pittsburgh and the grab for talent are some high-tech giants. Google landed in Pittsburgh in 2006 and has recruited many CMU SCS grads to develop new digital edge applications such as voice assistants. Facebook recently announced that it is opening new artificial intelligent research labs in Pittsburgh and Seattle, Facebook AI Research Labs (FAIR), making competition for recent grads even stronger. In addition, Uber is developing self-driving technologies at its Advanced Technologies Group, which is right down the road from the Robotics Centre. Pittsburgh is also on the shortlist for Amazon’s HQ2.
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- The Milwaukee School of Engineering announced a Computer Science degree focused on AI that’s also scheduled to launch in September. The school said it will offer a bachelor of science in computer science with a focus on artificial intelligence.