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UMass Artificial-intelligence Experts Join IBM’s AI Horizons Network

AMHERST — The Center for Data Science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has been selected by IBM to join the company’s AI Horizons Network, an international consortium of leading universities working with IBM to develop technologies needed to help fulfill the promise of artificial intelligence (AI). The collaboration builds on the international reputation of the university’s College of Information and Computer Sciences as a research leader in artificial intelligence and information retrieval.

IBM will work side by side with UMass Amherst, where researchers from both entities will “develop new methods to extract semantic meaning from text, and discover broadly useful logical implications using deep neural networks,” said Andrew McCallum, director of the UMass Amherst Center for Data Science and a leading expert in statistical machine learning applied to text, including information extraction, graphical models, and deep learning.

The mission of the IBM AI Horizons Network is to apply AI technologies to some of the world’s most enduring challenges. IBM researchers work with world-class faculty and top graduate students on a series of advanced research projects and experiments designed to accelerate the application of artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language processing, and related technologies.

“IBM is committed to working side by side with the best minds in academia,” said Brent Hailpern, scientific director, AI Horizons Network, IBM Research. “With the students and faculty of UMass Amherst, we seek to inspire the next generation of scientists by providing access to leading-edge AI tools and expertise to solve real problems that impact human lives.”

Added Laura Haas, dean of UMass Amherst’s College of Information and Computer Sciences,” the collaboration between IBM and UMass Amherst will build upon both organizations’ significant strengths in artificial intelligence. Together, we will use deep-learning methodologies and technologies to find new ways to mine information, advancing knowledge creation in fields like healthcare and materials science.”

In addition to its leading experts in AI and information retrieval, UMass Amherst delivers a notable hardware advantage to the new consortium, McCallum pointed out. Its Center for Data Science is doubling the size of its computing cluster from 400 to 800 graphical processing units (GPUs), purchased as part of a $5 million grant from the Massachusetts Tech Collaborative. “Modern research in machine learning crucially depends on large-scale GPU computing,” he noted. “I don’t know of any other university center in the world that has as much dedicated deep-learning computing infrastructure as the UMass Center for Data Science.”

UMass Amherst joins MIT, the University of California San Diego, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the University of Michigan, the University of Montréal, and the University of Maryland Baltimore County in IBM’s AI Horizons Network. The UMass Amherst Center for Intelligent Information Retrieval, which developed one of the first search engines and is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, will also participate in the joint research relationship.