The National Science Foundation has awarded a $25 million grant to Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study how the brain creates intelligence and how that process can be replicated in machines.
"Our quest for the basis of intelligence is an ancient one, bolstered in recent years by our ability to create machines that have domain-specific abilities, such as Google's self-driving car, [IBM's] Watson or [Apple's] Siri, said L. Mahadevan, professor of mathematics, evolutionary biology, and physics at Harvard. "But we are still some way from understanding the broad basis for human intelligence. This new center will refocus our collective efforts at trying to solve this question from multiple perspectives."
The five-year grant will be used to create a Center for Brains, Minds and Machines.
The center's focus will cross from artificial machine intelligence to neurobiology, electrical engineering, social intelligence and child development. It also will include the study of vision, language and motor skills.
"Those thrusts really do fit together in the sense that they cover what we think are the biggest challenges facing us when we try to develop a computational understanding of what intelligence is all about," said Patrick Winston, a professor of engineering at MIT. The center will be based at MIT in Cambridge, Mass.
At this point, there are there are 10 MIT faculty members involved, along with five from Harvard and one each from Cornell, Rockefeller University, UCLA, Stanford and the Allen Institute.
Industrial partners include Google, Microsoft, IBM, Boston Dynamics, Rethink Robotics and Willow Garage.
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.