IBM Partners U-M to Leverage Advanced Conversational Computing System

By CIOReview | Friday, January 22, 2016

ANN ARBOR, MI: University of Michigan and IBM have teamed up to launch a $4.5Mn collaborative program to solve grand challenges of the artificial intelligence. The program named as Project Sapphire, will develop a new conversational technologies class that enables effective interaction with computers.

Artificial intelligence labs of U-M and IBM have planned to design a system that provides academic advices to the computer science and engineering undergraduates of the university. This system will help researchers to explore the function of machine interaction with people on goal driven commands.

The team will to record large volumes of human-to-human conversations between students and the advisers on various topics related to career advice, course selection, homework resources, etc. The developers will extract these conversations to train the   system which will successfully reply to the student’s questions. Cognitive system will be trained using recorded human conversation to learn interaction by employing software technologies, natural language understanding, machine learning, knowledge representation, deep learning and emotion analysis.

"By partnering with the University of Michigan, we have an enormous opportunity to apply AI technologies in new ways and transform human-machine communication. This collaboration marks the next chapter in a longstanding relationship between the university and IBM to place the power of cognitive technologies into the hands of the next generation of thinkers," said David Nahamoo, Chief Technologist, Conversational systems, IBM Watson.

Project Sapphire will apply statistical and probabilistic reasoning methods to understand context and conditions. The digital adviser provides required assistance to the students in answering the routine questions. Students can choose their preferable option and receive recommendations accordingly. The innovations by Project Sapphire will integrate cognitive systems across many industries for delivering appropriate responses to direct the conversations towards a stated goal.

"Natural conversations bring in so many different aspects of human intelligence—knowledge, context, goals and emotion, for instance. In many ways, to build a versatile conversational system is a grand challenge for artificial intelligence," said Satinder Singh Baveja, Professor, Computer Science and Engineering, Director, AI Lab, U-M. "We look forward to taking it on with this partnership."