MIT's Artificial Intelligence Lab was the brainchild of John McCarthy
and Marvin Minsky
. The lab was officially founded in 1959 and currently is a part of building NE43 at MIT, also known as Technology Square
. The AI Lab occupies the upper floors of Tech Square. The people that work there perform research in all of the most prominent fields of artificial intelligence
Since they have such a huge amount of resources available, the faculty of the AI Lab takes on projects that no other research facility can handle. Every year, they receive an incredible sum of money from the federal government and private corporations. In the past, the AI Lab has focused on projects that require the resources it gets: robotics, machine vision and speech recognition. In addition to this, members of the lab have been active in the fields of machine learning and computer architecture. Though artificial intelligence is still young, the AI Lab has made major progress. They have developed many of the fundamental principles and techniques used in AI research today, and they have provided real-world applications for their work. They've refined techniques in image guided surgery as well as government work. Government departments that have benefitted from the work of the AI Lab include NASA, DARPA, and NIH. NASA's methods of gathering data on planets through satellites, for instance, have been completely reworked in recent years. Many other government projects are often kept secret.
In comparison to many of MIT's other labs, the AI Lab is surprisingly open to visitors. One can stroll around the office areas to give themselves a tour. The seventh, eighth, and ninth floors of Tech Square are usually quiet. However, there are always people hanging around the eighth floor "playroom", around which many graduate students have offices. The members of the faculty of the AI Lab teach many undergraduate and graduate courses at MIT. Not all of the lab's staff are EECS hackers; there are a number of brain and cognitive science researchers as well. Up on the lab's web site, available at http://www.ai.mit.edu, there is even a web cam set up in the ninth floor conference room.
The AI Lab continues to be involved in cutting edge research. Vision and speech recognition continue to be the main areas of research and development. The Leg Laboratory division of the AI Lab has produced amazing results in producing robots that simulate natural animal locomotion. The AI Lab is developing some of the core portions of MIT's Project Oxygen. MIT's Media Lab concentrates on slightly more curious projects that make use of AI, such as "smart room" technology. The AI Lab devotes its resources to more down-to-earth projects, but it is branching out to other disciplines that fall under the artificial intelligence category. New research in the fields of medical vision, genomics, and humanoid robotics has a very promising future.