Oregon State University's 150th anniversary celebrated its final high point on Tuesday with an ambitious conference on artificial intelligence and robotics.
More than 1,200 people attended the LaSells Stewart Center and the CH2M Hill Alumni Center: OSU faculty. Staff and students. Students from other countries, including a 9-year-old from Portland who dropped out of school. Company Visitors
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For all these promises, the conference also contained the constant drumbeat of the commentary, which began with the phrase "on the other side".
Stephanie Jenkins, an assistant professor of philosophy at OSU specializing in disability issues, noted in a morning panel that a robot could be an effective caregiver for a disabled person assisting in chores, medication cycles, and meal preparation.
But then hand, she noticed that the robot would also collect data. Who would pass with the data, she asked? What happens when a data breach occurs? And how can you ensure that people in research and development consult with people with disabilities?
Geoff Hollinger, another OSU lecturer in mechanical engineering, asked the question, "What happens if a drone that delivers Amazon experiences a crime? What do we do? Ethical and legal tools are needed."
Moderator Thomas Dietterich, emeritus computer science professor at the OSU, presented a discussion on privacy issues: "I'm amazed how many people have invited Alexa into their work houses to monitor their conversations."
And then there is the theme of self-driving cars, one of the most agonizing – and also the most frightening – AI apps on the horizon.
What happens, Hollinger asked, if all together are self-propelled system finds that a certain side street is the best way to get through a clogged area? Suddenly there is a traffic jam in the side street.
And how do you make sure that AI reads the right signals? Jason Millar, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Ottawa, Canada, told an anecdote about a Google experiment that saw the difference between cat images and those of dogs sorted out.
The key factor was how Google found these dog pictures had grass in the background. That's not enough, Millar said.
"They want the AI to recognize a dog," he said.
The participants were treated to an innovation fair at the Alumni Center at noon. The famous OSU robot was there, along with an OSU Robotics Club Mars Rover. And a robot that works underwater. And the broccoli harvester of the Crescent Valley High troupe. A laser-guided air syringe with an embedded computer was outside. It looked like a piece of farm equipment, not a robot.
In the foyer of the Alumni Center there were four "Stuhlbots" where brave souls could dance. Their names: Classic, Sassy, Limey and Cutey. Lionel Wylde, 9, tried his luck with Limey. The fifth grader from Portland showed up at the conference with his mother instead of his classmates at Kelly Elementary School because of his interest in robots.
"This event is about the future," said Shelly Signs, coordinator of OSU's 150 th anniversary programs. And she talked about the conference on Tuesday and the dozens and dozens who preceded it.
"I've found that there were more than 170 individual events, presentations, and co-hosted events" during the OSU anniversary celebrations, she said.
Many of the events were associated with the status of the OSU as a land, sea, space and sunshine education university. The list included organizing a solar eclipse party on sea trips along the coast and land tours in the woods of the university, but Signs pointed to a constant:
"I went with every tour I helped with at least one story of passionate visitors, "she said." We can be very proud of OSU. "