This college opened a one-of-a-kind AI lab


An innovative approach to artificial intelligence at the University of Rhode Island is open to the public

Dr. Kunal Mankodiya, assistant professor of URI’s department of electrical, computer and biomedical engineering, established a founding team of the AI lab, involving the URI College of Arts and Sciences and URI Libraries. He says the lab will enable students to do programming as well as make things that can think.

Two years ago, Dr. Mankodiya, also director of URI’s Wearable Biosensing Laboratory, started a smart textiles project, which involves transforming gloves and other clothing into high-tech items that could work in telemedicine. His latest project, a smart glove, has sensors that can “read” certain body functions and has been tested on patients with Parkinson’s disease. Patients would wear the glove and, within minutes, their doctors could review their data, including symptoms, and devise a treatment plan or ensure medications are working.

In the AI lab, students can help design AI algorithms that could predict the progression of disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, or could help personalize medicine. Patients who are rehabilitating at home might be doing their exercises wrong. One way a doctor could know that is via a smart wearable algorithm that could sense the patients’ heart rate and oxygen levels, for example. In turn, their doctors could revise the rehabilitation plan to strengthen it or weaken it, depending on that data.

Zones for learning
The AI Lab has three zones that will open in the spring 2019 semester: individualized learning, hands-on projects, and collaborative thinking. After students learn the basics of AI and programming language via a guided tutorial, they can move on to intermediate and advanced levels where they can start to use robots and IoT kits, devising innovative projects that haven’t even been thought of yet.

Boughida says that the lab is aligned with Rhode Island priorities—to encourage students to stay in the state after college and work as data scientists, AI engineers, ethics/philosophy instructors, user experience designers, AI strategy consultants, and robot managers.

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