Google VP Andrew Moore Named Dean of Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science

Google vice president Andrew W. Moore has been selected as the new dean of Carnegie Mellon University’s renowned School of Computer Science (SCS), effective this August. Moore, a distinguished computer scientist with expertise in machine learning and robotics, served as a professor of computer science and robotics at CMU before being named founding director of Google’s Pittsburgh engineering office in 2006. 

Moore’s appointment adds further momentum to President Suresh’s initiatives aimed at enhancing the connections among CMU’s world-renowned research, its innovative and entrepreneurial culture, and expanding interactions with industry and government.  Carnegie Mellon’s pioneering leadership in computer technologies, seamlessly leveraged with its expertise in the sciences, engineering, arts, design, policy, business and humanities, provides significant opportunities for shaping the 21st century in which computing and data are poised to play a transformative role in the daily lives of billions of global citizens.

“Andrew Moore combines an expansive vision, scientific expertise, and leadership strength that make him extraordinarily well suited to be dean of the School of Computer Science,” said Carnegie Mellon President Subra Suresh. “As computing grows ever more critical to our global society, the scope of SCS and its importance to the world will continue to expand and its impact on the human condition will be more evident. Andrew is particularly well positioned to lead the School at this time.”

SCS is known for its breadth of focus; faculty research includes not only the creation of better computer hardware and software, but also studies of the diverse effects of computing on society and the world.  Google opened its Pittsburgh office on CMU’s campus in 2006 to gain proximity to its computer science talent.

“Andrew Moore has been a respected contributor to Google and the Pittsburgh community since he helped start the office there in 2006,” said Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google Inc., a former member of the CMU Board of Trustees and the keynote speaker at Suresh’s inauguration last November as the ninth president of Carnegie Mellon. “Some of Google’s strongest talent has come out of CMU, and we look forward to continuing our relationship with the university. I know Andrew will help inspire the next generation of innovators.”

Moore’s research ranges from improving manufacturing methods and finding distant asteroids in space to early detection of bioterrorism using data on over-the-counter medication purchases.  His CMU-based research group, the Auton Lab, collaborates closely with other scientists, government agencies and technology companies. Auton Lab algorithms are now in use in dozens of commercial, university and government applications.

“Ever since college I have been inspired by the world-changing ideas and technologies that come out of CMU. I’m privileged to return to the School of Computer Science in this new role,” said Andrew Moore. “I have had a wonderful 8 years at Google Pittsburgh: a place which I believe has the most creative and driven gang of computer scientists in the world. We plan to remain great friends within the broader context of growing Pittsburgh’s leadership in science and technology.”

Under Moore’s leadership, Google Pittsburgh has grown to hundreds of employees. Moore led essential engineering contributions to Google’s services, including AdWords, Shopping and Search, as well as core Google engineering infrastructure and tools. Since 2010, the company has annually been among Carnegie Mellon’s largest employers, with more than 500 alumni now working for the company worldwide.

Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, SCS is widely regarded as one of the best computer science programs in the world. U.S. News and World Report has ranked CMU’s graduate program in computer science No. 1 since 2011.  CMU faculty have made groundbreaking contributions to search engines, network security, life-saving robots, driverless cars, computer vision, language processing and technologies for learning.  CMU scholars Alan Perlis, Allen Newell and Nobel Prize winner Herbert Simon were among the founding fathers of the discipline of computer science.  Moreover, CMU is home to 12 winners of the Turing Award, the highest honor in computer science research.

Faculty and students at SCS have developed some of the world’s best known and most frequently used technologies from CAPTCHA web security tests to kidney donor matching methods and the 2013 App of the Year, “Duolingo”. The first emoticon, known as “Smiley”  :-), was created at CMU.  In

addition, SCS gave birth to technologies such as the GigaPan camera system, a robotic device that allows any camera to shoot multibillion-pixel panoramic images; Alice, a software platform developed to teach students computer programming by creating 3D animations and video games; and the Mach kernel that lies at the heart of Apple’s primary operating system, OS X. It is also where robots have been created to clean up nuclear waste, travel to places humans cannot reach and to assist with minimally invasive surgery.

Moore received a doctorate from the University of Cambridge in 1991 and joined the CMU faculty in 1993 following two years of post-doctoral research. In 2005, he was elected a fellow of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence. Andrew lives in Pittsburgh with his wife, Mary, and two children, William and Lucy.

Moore succeeds Randal E. Bryant, who will return to the CMU faculty after serving as dean since 2004.


Carnegie Mellon Creates Practical Self-Driving Car

Bill Shuster in the self-driving SRX.

Bill Shuster in the self-driving SRX.

A self-driving car developed by Carnegie Mellon University today demonstrated that it could negotiate congestion and highway traffic while safely changing lanes and merging during a challenging 33-mile drive from Cranberry, Pa., to Pittsburgh International Airport.

This uniquely capable vehicle nevertheless looks, from the outside, much like any other 2011 Cadillac SRX.

U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Barry Schoch, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, were along for the ride in the autonomous car. A human was in the driver’s seat as a safety precaution, but all of the driving was done by Carnegie Mellon’s innovative software, relying on inputs from radars, lidars and infrared cameras.

“We are extremely honored that Chairman Shuster and Secretary Schoch wanted to be part of this event today,” said Raj Rajkumar, who directs CMU’s U.S. Department of Transportation-funded transportation research center and co-directs the CMU-General Motors Autonomous Driving Collaborative Research Lab.

“We are fortunate to have government leaders with passion and vision for the potential of technology to transform U.S. transportation,” he added. “The technology and infrastructure necessary for making transportation safer and keeping our nation globally competitive in the growing market for autonomous driving doesn’t come easily or cheaply. Much work remains to be done on both the technological and policy fronts.

Lead engineer Jarrod Snider ready to hit the road.

Lead engineer Jarrod Snider ready to hit the road.

“Autonomous driving technology is progressing rapidly,” Rajkumar continued, noting that many auto makers and companies such as Google host active research efforts. “This car is the holy grail of autonomous driving because it can do it all — from changing lanes on highways, driving in congested suburban traffic and navigating traffic lights. This car and the research team behind it are proof that Carnegie Mellon continues to be a leader on this emerging frontier.”

Unlike some previous self-driving vehicles, including Boss, the autonomous Chevy Tahoe with which CMU won the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge, the SRX doesn’t bristle with exotic and expensive sensors. The vehicle uses only automotive-grade radars and lidars, which are unobtrusively embedded around the car. Its computers are hidden under the cargo floor.

In addition to controlling the steering, speed and braking, the autonomous systems also detect and avoid obstacles in the road, including traffic cones and barrels, as well as pedestrians and bicyclists, pausing until they are safely out of the way. The systems provide audible warnings of obstacles and communicate vehicle status to its passengers using a human-like voice.

This Cadillac SRX also can communicate with instrumented traffic lights and other vehicles equipped with wireless communication devices to enable cooperation.

The main goal of CMU’s driverless car is to reduce accidents, thereby decreasing injuries and fatalities. In addition, autonomous vehicles will save time during daily commutes and long distance travels by taking over the task of driving and giving people more time to catch up on rest, work and family time, according to Rajkumar.

“The car’s electronics are simply more reliable than people and will protect drivers from their own bad behavior as well as those of others, such as drinking or texting,” Rajkumar said. More than 40,000 Americans lose their lives each year in traffic accidents.

University Advancement, Piper, driverless car, September 4 2013

Look Ma, no hands!

Rajkumar suggests that self-driving vehicles will begin to be commercially available around 2020 as near-term costs as well as social and legal concerns are addressed. In the meantime, however, these technologies can be incorporated gradually, allowing drivers to adapt while adding safety and convenience. Rajkumar said adaptive cruise control and lane departure warnings, already available in some cars, are examples. The next step could be on-demand autonomy, where the car takes complete control under specific scenarios, such as low-speed driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic or driving on single lane highways.

The self-driving Cadillac SRX builds on a long tradition of autonomous navigation research at Carnegie Mellon. General Motors has been a sponsor of the award-winning Boss team and continues to support autonomous driving research at CMU. Sensor fusion, which enables adaptive cruise control, collision alerts and other advanced safety features in the 2013 Cadillac XTS, was created in part from GM’s experience with Boss.

CMU’s portfolio of transportation technology projects includes the Traffic21 initiative, launched with the support of the Hillman Foundation and the Technologies for Safe and Efficient Transportation Center, a U.S. Department of Transportation University Transportation Center at Carnegie Mellon in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania that also received support from the Hillman Foundation.

Carnegie Mellon Launches WEx Online Multimedia Community

wexPioneers in the use of video games, interactive multimedia and other new technology for education can share their triumphs, failures, or even just their ideas in a new online community called Working Examples, re-launched this spring by Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center (ETC).

The outgrowth of work by James Gee, professor of literacy studies at Arizona State University, and Drew Davidson, acting director of the ETC, the website,, is envisioned as a place for researchers, designers and educators to connect. It also serves as a new form of academic publishing, one that accommodates non-textual material such as images, videos and diagrams to explain how educational technologies are used. By their very nature, many of those technologies are non-textual.

To encourage educators, designers and other members of the educational technology community to contribute to the newly relaunched site, Working Examples has announced a contest, the WEx Kickoff Challenge. The contest includes prizes of up to $6,000 to people who post their own “working example” to the site by mid-September. Contest details are available on the website.

“Right now, there’s a lot of money being spent on technology in education, but the impact has not been great,” said Anna Roberts, director of Working Examples. “Yet these technologies remain very promising and exciting. We think much can be learned by people sharing not just what they’re doing with these technologies, but how they are doing it.”

Working Examples itself is a play on “worked example,” which is a step-by-step demonstration of how to solve an example problem, usually in math or science. Gee and Davidson wanted people to share examples of good work, rather than just pointing at problems. And because the use of technology in education will continuously evolve, worked examples became working examples.

The project began four years ago and has received support from both the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Over the past year, Roberts and other staff members have been reworking the original Working Examples website, making it easier for people to use and to connect with each other.

“A developer might post a lesson that involves a new educational video game, or a teacher might simply post an example of how she uses YouTube or other existing technology in an innovative way,” Roberts said. “The important thing is that people share their process and be willing to discuss it. It’s an opportunity for people to learn from and inspire each other.”

The Entertainment Technology Center is an interdisciplinary graduate program that teaches technologists and artists how to work together to create digital entertainment, such as games and interactive exhibits, as well as educational technologies. It offers a two-year master’s degree program with degrees jointly conferred by the School of Computer Science and the College of Fine Arts.

Pittsburgh Robotics Events Dominate October

October might as well be dubbed “Pittsburgh Robotics Week” with the Robot Hall of Fame, RoboBusiness and the QoLT Summit 2012 all happening in perfect succession.

Here’s a quick rundown of all things robotics happening across Pittsburgh in October.

Pittsburgh Technology Council is proud to support The RoboBusiness Leadership Summit, coming to Pittsburgh October 22-24, 2012.

RoboBusiness Leadership Summit is the leading business development event for the global robotics industry, where executives come together to accelerate the commercial advancement of robotics.

Join PTC’s President and CEO, Audrey Russo, as she shares the strategies that have connected Pittsburgh’s tech-based companies with winning opportunities at RoboBusiness 2012. Russo speaks as a business advocate across the local, state and federal levels. Her session, “From Prototypes to Sales” will focus on how to build new business relationships and access capital in the greater Pittsburgh area and beyond.

AND as a member of Pittsburgh Technology Council, you’ll enjoy the EARLY BIRD REGISTRATION PRICE

– an exclusive savings of $500 – when you register by October 15th

You must use code PTC500 to activate this special savings during registration.

The RoboBusiness After-Party at Andy’s Wine Bar in downtownPittsburgh will bring you pure enjoyment and fun!  Don’t miss the only place on the planet where the robots dance like people and the people dance like robots.

Join the QoLT Center for its 2012 Summit as it celebrates recent accomplishments in early stage R&D for intelligent and adaptive systems that benefit older adults, people with disabilities, and ultimately, everyone!  Catch developments in basic and applied research, learn how QoLT collaborates with industry and practitioners, or support our students competing in the NSF’s Perfect Pitch Elevator Pitch Contest.

The highlight of October will be CMU’s Robot Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at theCarnegieScienceCenter on Oct. 23. Voting for the 2012 Robot Hall of Fame Inductees is now open to the public! Help determine this year’s winners by casting your vote online today.

In addition to inducting the newly elected robots, the ceremony also will honor five jury-selected robots from the 2010 induction class: NASA Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity, iRobot’s Roomba vacuum cleaner, the da Vinci Surgical System, the characters Huey, Dewey, and Louie from the 1971 film “Silent Running,” and T-800, the character played by actor Arnold Schwarzenegger in “The Terminator” film series.



Picking the Brains of Strangers Improves Efforts To Make Sense of Online Information

People who have already sifted through online information to make sense of a subject can help strangers facing similar tasks without ever directly communicating with them, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Microsoft Research have demonstrated.

This process of distributed sensemaking, they say, could save time and result in a better understanding of the information needed for whatever goal users might have, whether it is planning a vacation, gathering information about a serious disease or trying to decide what product to buy.

The researchers explored the use of digital knowledge maps — a means of representing the thought processes used to make sense of information gathered from the Web. When participants in the study used a knowledge map that had been created and improved upon by several previous users, they reported that the quality of their own work was better than when they started from scratch or used a newly created knowledge map.

“Collectively, people spend more than 70 billion hours a year trying to make sense of information they have gathered online,” said Aniket Kittur, assistant professor in Carnegie Mellon’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute. “Yet in most cases, when someone finishes a project, that work is essentially lost, benefitting no one else and perhaps even being forgotten by that person. If we could somehow share those efforts, however, all of us might learn faster.”

The research team, including Kristie Fisher and Scott Counts of Microsoft Research, will present their findings May 7 at CHI 2012, the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, in Austin, Texas.

They recruited 21 Microsoft employees for the study, asking them to create knowledge maps on three different subjects, one of which was to be created from scratch, one based on a map previously created by one person and yet another based on a map that had iteratively been modified by four other users. The participants took the least time to generate knowledge maps when they based them on iterated maps and self-reported that the quality and helpfulness of those maps were superior to those developed from scratch or from a map generated by a single person.

In most cases, the organization of the knowledge map, rather than any specific content, was most useful. For instance, two people looking to start a garden might live in different climates or settings, so the types of seeds they might plant could be different, but each would benefit from elements such as “design ideas,” “how to” and so on.

Using eye tracking, the researchers showed that as knowledge maps are modified successively by multiple users, new users spend less time looking at specific content elements, shifting a greater balance of their attention to structural elements like labels. “This suggests that distributed sensemaking facilitates the process of ‘schema induction,’ or forming a mental model of the information being considered,” Counts said.

But this structure did not start to emerge until a map had been modified at least once. This would explain why participants favored the iterated maps over the others, Fisher said.

One problem for distributed sensemaking is overcoming the “first iteration hump,” the researchers noted. Though the participants favored maps that had been improved by a succession of users, they also favored their maps created from scratch over those created by one other person. One way to get people to use newly created maps instead of making their own might be to pay them to modify another user’s map, or to require users to integrate some “first-round” maps before they are given access to the highly iterated ones. It may also be possible to use automated methods to produce maps that look more like maps that have been revised by multiple users.

This research was sponsored by the National Science Foundation, Microsoft and the Center for the Future of Work at Carnegie Mellon University.