Roni Khardon, professor of computer science at the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, has received a $599,594 National Science Foundation grant for his research on developing new approaches and algorithms to address core AI problems.
The project explores problems in stochastic planning and control that occur in many industries and scientific areas. In these problems, there is some uncertainty about outcomes of actions and an agent has to take this into account when controlling the environment to achieve its goals. Examples include manipulating a complex robotic system with inaccurate motors and unpredictable environmental factors such as slippage or wind. The project will develop new machine learning algorithms to model the uncertainty, and new planning and reinforcement learning algorithms that can be used for decision making. These learning-and-planning problems are computationally challenging and developing tools for solving them is still a major goal for AI research.
Khardon said the project will focus on reasoning about actions and their outcomes to enable agents to achieve long-term objectives; learning world models that provide well-calibrated uncertainty quantification with regards to the effects of actions; and combining world models and planning into successful reinforcement learning algorithms that learn about the world and control it to achieve their objectives.
“The technical focus is on using probabilistic inference as a formulation that enables new algorithmic approaches,” Khardon said. “The context includes problems that require reasoning about continuous and discrete quantities, with some applications to robotics.”
The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency that supports science and engineering throughout the country. Through its grants, it promotes scientific progress, advances national health, prosperity and welfare, and secures the national defense. It supports research with the potential to help society.
“Professor Khardon has a long research history in probabilistic inference and stochastic planning considering uncertainties,” said Yuzhen Ye, computer science chair and professor of informatics and computer science. “This new NSF award will allow him and his students to develop new approaches and algorithms for core problems in AI, which will have lasting impacts on industries and scientific areas.