Swarm intelligence

Computer Science Mathematics
October 1, 2015

Taylor Kessler Faulkner ’16, is a computer science major from Chapel Hill, N.C., who attended a conference on artificial intelligence and robotics. This is her first-person account.

In September, 2015, I received a Horizon Fund grant to attend the Swarm/Human Blended Intelligence (SHBI) conference, sponsored by John Carroll University. SHBI was a two-day workshop where students, researchers and representatives from tech companies gathered to discuss swarm intelligence and blended intelligence.

Swarm intelligence is a branch of artificial intelligence involving multiple agents; blended intelligence is the concept of combining the unique capabilities of humans and computers to solve problems that could not be solved by either one alone.

At the conference, there were many talks about blended intelligence and swarm projects. These talks covered a wide range of topics, including networks, prosthetic hands, human swarms responding to natural disasters, and the ability to graph the outcomes of Particle Swarm Optimization.

There was even a tutorial on Particle Swarm Optimization by its inventors, Dr. Russell Eberhart and Dr. James Kennedy. The presentations and subsequent discussions made use of ideas from several areas that I had recently learned about at Denison, such as graph theory, theory of computation and several artificial intelligence algorithms.

The first day ended with an interactive experiment, in which the participants in the workshop acted as a swarm. The goal of the swarm was to reach an end location in an unknown spot in a field. Each of us with an Android phone downloaded an application that allowed all of our phones to connect to each other and use GPS to determine our location. When our phone screens turned green, we had reached the goal location. We could verbally communicate each other as much as we wanted, mimicking the agents in a swarm “communicating” with each other. This experiment allowed us to experience the ideas behind swarm intelligence in an interactive way.

The SHBI workshop gave a broad view of the different possible problems to which swarm intelligence and blended intelligence could be applied. It showed me some of the ways that skills I learned in my Denison classes could be applied to both research and business opportunities.

As a student who is currently applying to graduate school for artificial intelligence, this experience allowed me to explore areas of research that I could possibly conduct and introduced me to some areas of artificial intelligence (blended intelligence and swarm intelligence) to which I had not been previously introduced.

In 2016 Taylor was honored by the National Science Foundation with a highly prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship Program award.
Under the auspices of the program, Taylor will study artificial intelligence/robotics. Congratulations Taylor!

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