ESL 91 SPRING, 2001

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Lianhuan He
ESL 91
Spring, 2001

Project Topic: Research recent developments in the field of artificial intelligence, particularly concerning COG project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). What is the purpose of the COG project? How does the COG project fit into the field of human-computer interaction?


Computers as intelligent devices have been the content of science fiction. Can a computer think? Is human intelligence different from machine intelligence? This subject, which is a field of research known as artificial intelligence (AI), has inspired a debate among computer scientists and philosophers for more than half a decade. We define AI as “the ability of computers to solve problems and perform tasks that were once thought to be uniquely human”(Parsons & Oja, Computer Concepts P33). AI has undergone a long way’s development. It began with the invention of the computer in 1943. Now scientists have made great achievements. One of the most famous AI projects is the COG project from Massachustts Institute of Technology (MIT). It is a new type of robot which is capable of interacting with the world in human-like way.

AI has an important role in computer science because it has the potential to change the way people function more than anything else in recorded history:

  1. AI systems could replace every worker who performs a routine assemble-line function
  2. AI system could be used to teach people
  3. AI could monitor the health conditions
  4. AI systems could measure data, discover relationships, and make recommendation for phenomena (weather, ocean currents, climate)
  5. AI system could accept knowledge from an area that can be define, apply rules to processing the knowledge

What is the purpose of AI? What is the recent state of AI development?

The purpose of AI is to help people solve problems in an information era when people feel that problems can't be solved by conventional methods. As we know now, computers are very good at mathematical computations, storing and recalling large amounts of information. They also excel at repetitive operations (Kasper, 1998, P55). As AI develops, computers can solve complex problems and model human performance. They have the ability to see, hear, understand, and respond to language. Scientists also want to create a robot that acts as a mature human would. That means the robot would be able to learn, think, reason, have conversations with people, and identify general objects. They can make friends with people and solve certain problems for people.

In 50 years of AI development, the machine's Cognitive, or learning, Systems, Neural Networks, and problem-solving systems have had great development (Kasper, 1998,P56). AI researchers have produced computers that can move and manipulate robotic limbs, respond to human speech, diagnose diseases, translate documents from one language to another, play chess at the grand master level, and learn new tasks.

However, scientists don't think computers can think. They are just machines, not logical constructs. For example, how can you tell if a person is able to think? We can't get inside someone's mind to find out. Instead, we probably use logic to think:" I'm a person and I can think; therefore, other people must be able to think too." This is easy for us, but not for a machine. Also a machine can't "make sense" out of what it sees and hears. It can't understand conversation. It simply processes symbols. In contrast, humans are good at all these things (Kasper,1988,P56).

How to make computers behave intelligently?

Computers don’t have the inborn abilities for intelligence; they need programs that people design to behave intelligently. We have to "determine" the process used by human's to produce a particular type of intelligent behavior and then simulate that process on a computer"(Kasper, 1998, P57). To simulate the human’s brain is the aim of AI researchers. However, no AI system emulates the entire human intelligence. AI systems function up to the capability of human knowledge and no highter.

COG is the research of the MIT AI lab. It is a new type of robot, which is a single hardware platform. It seeks to bring together each of the many sub-fields of AI into one unifield, coherant, functional whole (overview of the Cog project, nd). It has a head, and two eyes. It uses a lot of computers, sensors and motors to compose its functions. This project's goal is to create a robot, which has capabilities of interacting with both objects and people in human like way. It can perform very similar movements. It can orient its head in the direction of a target. It has components of a human-like body. It can detect people in the environment by looking for patterns of light and dark shading, by looking for oral shapes and by looking for regions of skin tone. Cog's brain is made up of a network of microprocessors. There is a set of microphones and video cameras in the head for hearing and sight. These processors work together to make COG behave intelligently (

AI at work:

AI has come into our daily life. When you go to Microsoft's web site, they have an automated help system that uses AI technology to help bring up the right documents for the user. People don't know it's AI. We say it's just their "Help system"

AI is also applied in industry and health care. Many hospitals use AI systems to read lab results, diagnose illnesses and help to determine if a patient will have a harmful reaction to a certain combination of drugs.

One of the most visible uses for AI research is in speech recognition. It allows users to write documents by speaking rather than typing. The market for this program is very large. It includes doctors, the blind and those with only limited use of their hands.

AI is also used by many mutual fund managers and other financial service providers to detemine where and when to invest their clients money.

My response:

I get excited about human's future with AI. Let's imagine we can control objects by voice. We only need to tell the computer what we want the machine to do by our language instead of computer language. That's amazing,

I also get excited that scientists predict that in the future, AI will be microminiaturized into nail size. The doctors will be able to put computers into a patient’s body to cure illnesses so that the patient won’t have to have surgical operations. That will be good for some illnesses that involve the brain and heart where it is dangerous to do surgical operations.

The development of AI will improve our life quality, and help people to reach a high quality life. Let’s imagine the implication for employment, leisure time, personal human fulfillment, medical profession, life-styles and education and anticipate the future of AI.


The road to artificial intelligence is very long and hard. It involves other sciences such as psychology, ethnology, philosophy, and linguistics. Today’s research just a little part of the future. The expertise in AI systems will evolve and grow. It will play an important role in every aspect of our lives.

Works Cited

Parsons & Oja, Computer Concepts, 4th edition

Kasper, L. F. (1998). Interdisciplinary English, 2nd edition. New York: McGraw-Hill.

COG project at MIT. [Online]. Available;

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XiaoGuang Jiang
Spring, 2001

Project Topic: Research recent developments in the field of Artificial Intelligence, particularly concerning the COG project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). What is the purpose of the COG project? How does the COG project fit into the field of human-computer interaction?

Technology is exploding.  Many computer engineers design to make a computer machine as intelligent as a human.  The AI Computer can learn the human knowledge and can do the same actions or behaviors as a human.  Moreover, AI’s goal is to understand how the human mind works and efficiently explore more specialized aspects of human intelligence. The group in the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT, made a machine in order to solve the complex problems AI is using computer and robotic technology to better understand and emulate human intelligence.  The product named Cog is the primary robotic platform used by the AI group at MIT to explore human intelligence.  Cog shows how a computer machine can do the same behaviors as a human and shows the success of AI.

In my research project, I will introduce AI’s history.  In addition, I will also mention the history, the function and much information about Cog.

In 1956, Artificial Intelligence’s father----John McCarthy, discovered the theory of AI.  He organized a conference to draw the talent and expertise of others interested in machine intelligence for a month of brainstorming.  He brought them to Vermont for “ The Dartmouth summer research project on artificial intelligence”. From that point on, the field would be known as Artificial intelligence.  Even though it was not a huge success, the Dartmouth conference did bring together the founders of AI and served to lay the groundwork for the future of AI research. (John McCarthy, MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab). 

What is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the area of computer science focusing on creating machines that can engage in behaviors that humans consider intelligent.  They create intelligent machines that have intrigued humans since ancient times.  Today, AI has the advent of the computer and after 50 years of research into AI programming techniques, the dream of smart machines are becoming a reality.  The researchers are also creating the systems in order to imitate the human thought and to understand speech.

Intelligence in the AI group is the computational part of the ability to achieve goals in the world. Varying kinds and degrees of intelligence occur in people, many animals and some machines (MIT Artificial Intelligence lab. 2000).

What is their goal?

The goal of AI is fousecomputers and robotic technology to seek to better understand and emulate human intelligence.  The AI’ group members create computer machines used  to explore human intelligence. Also, other robotic platforms are created by AI in order to explore more specialized aspects of human intelligence efficiently and concurrently .

The COG project

The product of the AI project at MIT is named Cog.  It is a single computer hardware platform. It includes a head, two eyes with four cameras, a body, and two arms, but except the legs and the flexible spine.  Moreover, Cog also has a lot of sensors and the actuated joints around its body.

Cog can behave like a human.  Cog has a body that is similar in shape, structure and degrees of freedom to a human body. The actuators move Cog’s body.  They use series elastic actuators to control the body and make human interactions with Cog safer.  For example, Cog can pull out a physics textbook, and work out the interacting kinematics by hand (deals with motion apart from considerations of mass and force). 

Let me describe how Cog moves. Cog’s cameras, sensors and spring are the main parts to control how Cog does all of the actions.  First, the message is received from the cameras; then the message is sent to a spring in Cog’s arm across in the sensors (the sensors in Cog looks like the sensors of Nervous System in human body).  The spring lets Cog’s arms do the reaction when it receives the message.  Cog’s arms can move because its spring is modeled like human muscles to do the action when the spring catches stimulation from the message. This example shows that Cog can learn human motion from the experience itself.

The goal of the Cog project is to develop a general system for Cog that can learn the causal relation between commands to its motors and input from its sensors, primarily vision and mechanical proprioceptor (it looks like the human receptor in Nervous System).  In the future, the group will extend Cog’s sensory map for full body orientation to do more behaviors as humans do.

My Response

In my research project, I learned about Artificial Intelligence.  I learned that AI technology is very useful, but it can also produce a lot of problems.  Some problems are making people lazy because they will depend on the computer and machines to do their jobs.  They will forget the natural way of doing the job by hand.  So, people will lose their jobs because people will have to compete with the computers and machines at work, and human’s efficiency will never be better than the machines and computers.   Also, I learned about the AI product named Cog.  Cog can move by itself; it can touch things.  It can learn the human motion from the experience itself.  Moreover, it can do some things as a human does.  Even though it still has weaknesses in the sensor map, I believe the researchers can fix the problem and develop Cog.


The technology has grown faster and faster; people can now achieve many goals in order to get their objectives.  AI still has a main role in computer science.  AI researchers will continue to try to solve their product’s weaknesses and improve their products.  The AI machine will not only be used in computer science, but it will also be used in different places and in different ways in the future.  AI machines will be used in to do the dangerous jobs.  Also, the AI machine will be involved in psychology, philosophy.  Moreover, AI will affect our life as AI helps people to solve more complicated problems.


Cog Project Overview (5/1/01) Question about Cog. [Online]

Kasper, Loretta F. (1998). Interdisciplinary English (2nd edition). New York: McGraw-Hill

McCarthy John. (4/4/2000). What is Artificial Intelligence? [Online].

MIT AI Lab. (n.d.). COG Project. [Online].

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