Oren Etzioni – UW’s Washington Research Foundation Entrepreneurship Professor in Computer Science & Engineering – has been selected to lead Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen’s new Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2).
“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to launch a major AI research institute in Seattle,” said Oren. “Our goal is to revolutionize the field, and with Paul’s vision and support, the sky’s the limit.”
Oren joined the UW CSE faculty in 1991, after receiving his Bachelors degree from Harvard and his Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon. A recognized leader in AI, he is a AAAI Fellow, recipient of the Robert S. Engelmore Memorial Award, and founder and director of the University of Washington’s Turing Center. He also is an active entrepreneur – the founder of four companies (most recently Decide.com) and a Venture Partner at Madrona Venture Group. His work has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, NPR, Science, The Economist, Business Week, Newsweek, Discover, Forbes, Wired, the NBC Nightly News, and even Pravda.
Paul has broad interests in scientific discovery. With his SpaceShipOne effort, private enterprise crossed the threshold into human spaceflight, previously the domain of government programs. SpaceShipOne won the $10 million Ansari X Prize for repeated flights in a privately developed reusable spacecraft, the Collier Trophy for greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in 2004, and the National Air and Space Museum Trophy for Current Achievement. His Allen Institute for Brain Science, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year, takes on large-scale initiatives designed to push brain research forward, enabling the global scientific community to more efficiently make discoveries that bring real-world utility. Paul has a long-standing interest in AI; for many years he has supported Project Halo, whose vision is the creation of a “Digital Aristotle” – a computer that contains large amount of knowledge in machine-computable form and can answer questions, explain those answers, and discuss those answers with users.
The creation of AI2 and the selection of Oren to lead it is fantastic news for UW CSE, for Seattle, and for the field of AI. Paul has been considering the general idea of some sort of AI institute for a number of years, but it wasn’t a “given” that AI2 would happen at all … or that it would happen in Seattle … or that tight connections to the University of Washington would be assured because the person leading AI2 has spent 20 years on the UW CSE faculty. All of these things are happening, though – it’s a dream come true. AI2 has the potential to transform Seattle into a world center of AI research in the same way that the Allen Institute for Brain Science has transformed Seattle into a world center of brain research.
Says Oren: “AI2 is an opportunity to take AI – worldwide and here in the Puget Sound region – to the next level by launching ambitious research projects, attracting the best and brightest to the region, and offering both permanent positions and internships to UW CSE students.”
A gigantic win – another step in making Seattle a center of the tech universe!