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Robots and Beyond exhibit explores world of AI

The MIT Museum's new exhibit, Robots and Beyond, provides a multimedia excursion into the world of artificial intelligence (AI), throwing open the doors of MIT's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, where scientists have been probing the mysteries of AI for four decades.

The exhibit opens this weekend, October 28 and 29, from 12-5pm at the museum's main exhibition center, 265 Massachusetts Avenue. Admission is free with an MIT ID, $5 for adults, $2 for students and seniors, and $1 for children under 18.


Because the debut coincides with the Museum's popular FAST program (Family Adventures in Science and Technology), special interactive activities will take place from 2-4pm each day. Visitors will get a chance to meet researchers from the AI Lab and explore the world of AI, what the future holds and how it will affect everyday life. In honor of Halloween, visitors will also get the opportunity to transform themselves into cyborgs, androids or robots. The FAST programs are sponsored by the AI Lab and the MIT Theater Department.

What distinguishes the Robots and Beyond exhibition is that it focuses on the research and experimentation of AI, as much as the excitement of the final product. The moment visitors enter the exhibition, they will be participating in research at MIT. Many of the exhibits will be both experimental and experiential, with the visitor getting a behind-the-scenes look at the process of evolution that precedes a successful invention.

On view will be such famous MIT robots as Kismet and Cog, which is designed to translate its environment through sensors, both visual and tactile. Through prototypes and other media, the visitor will be able to follow the evolution of Cog from a fairly primitive robot to one of sensory sophistication.

Robots and Beyond will illustrate what people learn from computers and what computers learn from people. In many ways, AI is infinitely less intelligent than human beings. A two-year-old child, for example, can instantly tell the difference between a dog and a cat, but a computer would find the differentiation difficult. Both cat and dog have four legs and a tail, some dogs are as small as cats, so a computer could mistake a small dog for a cat. Not all barks and meows are standard either, so sound does not necessarily clear up the computer's confusion. Similarly, a robot has a difficult time distinguishing a man from a woman; there are simply too many superficial variables.

But computers leave human beings in the dust in other areas. They can discern intricate patterns and identify complex matching patterns, such as in fingerprints. Human beings would not have the ability to read each other's fingerprints or irises to confirm identification, but computers can instantly process the complex network of patterns and determine if one matches another.

Visitors to Robots & Beyond will be able to experience the latest iris-recognition technology. Each and every human iris is one of a kind, and IridianTechnologies��������� has put the unique attributes of the iris to work to create an identification system that is many times more accurate than other biometrics like fingerprints or voice recognition.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 25, 2000.

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