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Stanford HAI Announces Four Hoffman-Yee Grantees

The second round of funding will sponsor teams that leverage AI to focus on real-world problems in health care, education, and society.

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Londa Schiebinger  John L. Hinds Professor of the History of Science, Stanford University, speaks on stage

Londa Schiebinger, the John L. Hinds Professor of the History of Science at Stanford University, describes her team's research during the recent Hoffman-Yee Symposium. | Christine Baker

Today, the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI) is pleased to announce four research teams will receive a second round of funding from the Hoffman-Yee Research Grant Program, a multiyear initiative to invest in research that leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to address real-world problems.

The recipients are focused on building robotics to improve human movement, developing artificial tutors to augment teachers in the classroom, understanding how humans play to improve AI tools, and investigating cultural concepts through time with AI. They will be provided with an additional $500,000 to $1 million for each of the next two years on top of their original award of $500,000 to continue their valuable work.

“This is a flagship program for Stanford HAI,” says HAI co-director John Etchemendy. “These teams were selected for their boldness, ingenuity, and potential for transformative impact.”

The Hoffman-Yee Research Grants launched in 2020 to focus on multidisciplinary, transformational research focused on the public good. Philanthropists Reid Hoffman and Michelle Yee are providing foundational support for the grants.

“Artificial intelligence is a vast, dynamic technology,” says Hoffman. “Like other technologies, it offers enormous potential for good as well as challenges that we must navigate. The commercial sector is leveraging AI at a growing pace. The gap and the opportunity is to have complementary work in academia that offers distinctive public sector benefits. That is why the challenging research being done by these teams has the potential to advance technology for public good and social interest — driving the human-centered mission of Stanford HAI.”

An entrepreneur, executive, and investor, Hoffman plays an integral role in building many of today’s leading consumer technology businesses and is chair of the HAI Advisory Council. In 2003 he co-founded LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional networking service. In 2009 he joined Greylock Partners. Hoffman serves on the boards of multiple companies and nonprofits, including Kiva, Endeavor, CZI Biohub, Do Something, and the MacArthur Foundation’s 100&Change. Yee earned her undergraduate degree from Stanford and her doctorate in education from the University of San Francisco.

The Hoffman-Yee Research Grant Program provides recipients an initial year of research funding, which can potentially be extended to three years. In 2020, six research teams were awarded a first round of funding. Every Hoffman-Yee recipient is reviewed carefully for ethical risks and benefits to society and subgroups within society as well as the global community.

The 2021 Recipients: 

Intelligent Wearable Robotic Devices for Augmenting Human Locomotion

  • Principal Investigator: Karen Liu, Associate Professor of Computer Science
  • Faculty, postdoctoral scholars, and graduate students from Mechanical Engineering, Bioengineering, Orthopedic Surgery, and Medicine

Falling injuries among the elderly cost the U.S. health system $50 billion (2015) — while causing immeasurable suffering and loss of independence. This research team seeks to develop wearable robotic devices for the elderly, people with sports injuries or neurodegenerative diseases, and others using an AI system that both aids in human locomotion as well as predicts and prevents falls.

AI Tutors To Help Prepare Students for the 21st Century Workforce

  • Principal Investigator: Christopher Piech, Assistant Professor of Computer Science Education.
  • Faculty and postdoctoral scholars from Education, Psychology, and Computer Science

The project aims to demonstrate a path to effective, inspiring education that is accessible and scalable. The team will create new AI systems that model and support learners as they work through open-ended activities like writing, drawing, working on a science lab, or coding. The research will monitor learners’ motivation, identity, and competency to improve student learning. Tested solutions will be implemented in code.org, brick-and-mortar schools, virtual science labs, and beyond.

Curious, Self-Aware AI Agents To Build Cognitive Models and Understand Developmental Disorders

  • Principal Investigator: Daniel Yamins, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Computer Science.
  • Faculty, postdoctoral scholars, and graduate students affiliated with Psychology, Graduate School of Education, Computer Science, School of Medicine

Human children learn about their world and other people as they explore. This project will bring together tools from AI and cognitive sciences, creating playful, socially interactive artificial agents. In the process, the team hopes to gain insights into building robots that can handle new environments and interact naturally in social settings.

An AI “Time Machine” for Investigating the History of Concepts

  • Principal Investigator: Dan Jurafsky, Professor of Humanities, Linguistics, and Computer Science
  • Faculty from English and Digital Humanities, Philosophy, Economics, French, Political Science, History of Science, Sociology, Psychology, and Biomedical Data Science

This research will develop new AI technology to examine historical texts in multiple languages to help humanists and social scientists better interpret history and society. Researchers will investigate key questions on morality, immigration, bias, aesthetics, and more. Using AI to help analyze how ideas change over time and how thought shapes society could be a breakthrough contribution not only to AI but to the humanities as well.

Watch the full symposium here, and learn more about the Hoffman-Yee Research Grants. 

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