Artificial Intelligence Research in Australia -- A Profile

Elizabeth Smith, John Whitelaw

Abstract


Does the United States have a 51st state called Australia? A superficial look at the artificial intelligence (AI) research being done here could give that impression. A look beneath the surface, though, indicates some fundamental differences and reveals a dynamic and rapidly expanding AI community. General awareness of the Australian AI research community has been growing slowly for some time. AI was once considered a bit esoteric -- the domain of an almost lunatic fringe- but the large government -backed programs overseas, as well as an appreciation of the significance of AI products and potential impact on the community, have led to a reassessment of this image and to concerted attempt to discover how Australia is to contribute to the world AI research effort and hoe the country is to benefit from it. What we have seen as result is not an incremental creep of AI awareness in Australia but a quantum leap with significant industry and government support. The first systematic study of the Australian AI effort was undertaken by the Australian Department of Science (DOS) in 1986. The study took as its base the long-running research report Artificial Intelligence in Australia (AIIA), produced by John Debenham (1986). The picture that emerged is interesting. AI researchers are well qualified, undertaking research at the leading edge in their fields, and have significant potential to develop further. The results of this study were published by DOS in the Handbook of Research and Researchers in Artificial Intelligence in Australia (Department of Science1986). This article is based on key findings from the study and on additional information gained through meeting and talking with researchers and research groups.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1609/aimag.v8i2.585

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