Experts explain how AI is supercharging innovation

Rapid moving advances in artificial intelligence have stirred controversy and debate, but they have all raised enticing prospects for supercharged technological innovation. Researchers at Virginia Tech who are exploring these frontiers can offer previews of the potential positive developments that could derive from AI.
AI is supercharging innovation:- Rapid moving advances in artificial intelligence have stirred controversy and debate, but they have all raised enticing prospects for supercharged technological innovation. [Newswise]
AI is supercharging innovation:- Rapid moving advances in artificial intelligence have stirred controversy and debate, but they have all raised enticing prospects for supercharged technological innovation. [Newswise]

AI is supercharging innovation:- Rapid moving advances in artificial intelligence have stirred controversy and debate, but they have all raised enticing prospects for supercharged technological innovation. Researchers at Virginia Tech who are exploring these frontiers can offer previews of the potential positive developments that could derive from AI.

Advancing autonomous systems to assist in their diagnostics, safety, and human training

Ella Atkins, Fred D. Durham professor and head of the Kevin T. Crofton Aerospace and Ocean Engineering Department at Virginia Tech, investigates aerospace information systems for advanced air mobility, uncrewed aircraft systems, and space robotics applications.  Her research explores how emerging AI and machine learning techniques can assist in a range of tasks from safe autonomy and self-diagnostics to tutoring human pupils.

“AI and machine learning can make an autonomous vehicle safer through self-monitoring diagnostics and prognostics and data-informed decision making. Maintenance and repair operations for aircraft have been revolutionized with this technology. For example, this technology can assist modern vehicles in avoiding or recovering from problems such as unexpectedly low battery energy reserves,” Atkins said.

“Large Language Models, or LLM, powered by deep neural network machine learning, enable a person to interact with a computer more naturally, more conversationally. This can help a person learn even difficult concepts because the first step is to get past anxiety with that concept, and LLM conversation interacts more like a teaching assistant than an encyclopedia or textbook,” she said.   

Deploying human-robot interactions

“I am interested in assistive technology, such as wheelchair mounted robot arms,” says Dylan Losey, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering with a specialization in robotics who directs the Collaborative Robotics Laboratory (Collab). “My lab is focused on the fundamentals of human-robot interaction. This includes how robots learn from humans, how robots collaborate with humans, and how humans understand the robots they are working with.”

“My main interest is developing robots that can learn from humans and communicating what the robot has learned back to the human operator. I see this mutual understanding between humans and robots key to avoiding the pitfalls of AI. I want AI that helps people do what they want, but is also clear and transparent to the human,” Losey said.

Enabling self-sufficient communication systems

Walid Saad, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and the Next-G wireless lead at the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, enthuses about the next steps in the evolution of AI and how it could intersect with forthcoming 6G wireless systems. “Current AI systems exhibit prowess in learning but struggle with reasoning,” he said.

“The central challenge for the upcoming years lies in equipping AI systems with common sense abilities, enabling these systems to think critically, reason logically, and plan proactively. This marks an initial stride toward the development of what's known as artificial general intelligence (AGI), aiming to approach intelligence levels seen in animals, if not eventually reaching human-level intelligence.

“AI can help automate and augment existing functionalities within wireless systems like 6G,” Saad said. “Nevertheless, as we peer into a more distant horizon, the notion of AI-native wireless systems presents limitations. AGI could potentially herald a revolutionary paradigm in wireless technology by enabling systems capable of human-like cognition — that is, reasoning, planning, and the application of 'common sense' where contextually relevant.

"While we realized for a while that 6G needs AI and potentially AGI, it is also worth noting that creating AGI needs an understanding of the physical world that 6G system can potentially provide, hence we foresee these two technologies truly flowing together in the future," Saad said.

Revolutionizing the construction industry

“AI can help designers and engineers to optimize their design for energy consumption, user comfort, evacuation and disaster plans, conformity with codes and regulations, environmental impact, and even more, at a level that was not possible before,” says Ali Shojaei with Virginia Tech’s Myers-Lawson School of Construction, who is working to revolutionize the construction industry through digital innovations.

“AI-driven automation and robotics can significantly speed up the construction process and also reduce human error,” he said. “AI can optimize the supply chain in construction. From predicting the need for materials to tracking their delivery, AI can ensure that projects are not delayed due to material shortages or logistical errors.

“In construction, AI-driven automation and robotics can significantly increase efficiency and precision, assisting in tasks like bricklaying, painting, or even complex tasks like installing electrical systems. And post-construction, AI can aid in the maintenance and lifecycle management of buildings, predicting when maintenance is needed and preventing costly repairs,” Shojaei said. Newswise/SP

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