It is a great time for Artificial Intelligence: The need for intelligent products and services, in conjunction to the advances that are made in networking and hardware, create new challenges and new promises to the ways technology will help making life better. Worldwide, there are many success stories in various domains of AI that have shown their transit to the industry. And this happens in an exciting way: Applications of robotics, language technology, information integration, content management, entertainment, social interactions, just to mention some of the boldest ones.
The intelligence of these products hides important small or big “pieces” of intelligence whose existence goes back in the (far and recent) history of AI and computing, where knowledge on methods and theories on searching and problem solving, planning and scheduling, machine learning, natural language processing, agents and multi-agent systems, robotics, knowledge representation and reasoning has started to be accumulated, providing the mature and nice techniques that today comprise the main stream of AI teaching material. However, the growth of AI resulted in partitioning the field in research areas (each with its own prominent conferences and journals) that show little interaction and integration. I believe, as others do, that integrating AI shall lead the field a long way.
This is, well, more or less, the history of AI and this is, well, more or less, the history of the Hellenic Artificial Intelligence Society, or EETN, as the acronym of the Greek name of our society is. EETN counts today 20 years of presence. It has started from the vision of few people to expand research on AI in Greece and today has a large and growing number of members, many of them being PhD students, pre and post graduate students, very active researchers that publish to prominent scientific fora, aiming to transit their research to industry, and that organize world-wide events fostering research on AI. This shows the momentum of the society, and this is great!
But what about integration of AI and interaction of different disciplines within AI? This is one of the major and most difficult problems that has its roots to the way funds are being given: “Small” pieces of AI are been integrated to specific products (sometimes these pieces are hidden or disowned to be AI). Little intelligence may be of great value, but advancing awareness of results in different AI disciplines and integrating intelligent methods, shall advance the solutions offered in many domains, boosting further technology, and so on. There is a long way to succeed on this and (EU and National) funding opportunities is surely a driving factor. We, as EETN, have to pave the way to this. Making industrial sites aware of the opportunities ahead is a major factor of success, but to convince them we have to tell success stories and show our excitement and strength to developing new AI technologies and put them into real practice.
From our survey on applications of AI technologies, it is evident that the AI community in Greece is active in developing a wide area of applications covering areas such as Entertainment, Business, Commerce, Finance, e-Government, Health and Biomedicine, Education, Engineering, Industry, Telecommunications, Web, Pervasive Systems, in conjunction to other applications for specific problems in numerous domains. An important conclusion that can be drawn is that Greek industry is not significantly involved in the developing and/or exploitation of AI applications. As a result, many attempts to build intelligent systems stop at the production of prototypes rather than commercial products. National funding bodies, such as the General Secretariat of Research and Technology, should enforce funding of mixed Academic-Industrial projects on issues related to the development of AI applications and their penetration to the industrial-business world, as well as the Greek society, in general.
To foster awareness on AI research activities in Greece, apart from the above mentioned survey, in the following one can find surveys on activities in important and core AI areas of research in Greece. We do hope that soon this list of topics shall be completed with other well known research and development activities in Greece, fostering cooperation, driving integration activities, attracting interest from industry and further driving funding activities.
Let me very briefly summarize the conclusion of these surveys by area of AI research. As far as searching and constraint problem solving is concerned, although this area has not attracted as many people as other areas in Greece, Greek researchers have achieved major contributions. However, there is a body of Greek scientists working in areas such as Operations Research and Theoretical Computer Science that are relevant to search and constraints (specifically combinatorial optimization), but these have been developed outside the AI community and are not covered by the survey. One of the areas that has attracted much attention is Machine Learning. The corresponding survey of EETN on this topic has much to say about the large effort devoted to this discipline and the exciting results it brings. The survey on Knowledge Representation and Reasoning offers a glimpse of the work of our Greek colleagues in this area, revealing a young and yet thriving research community. Given the long tradition of Greece in humanistic studies and related topics, as well as the need to develop applications that support Greek in the multilingual European Union, it is not strange that research on Natural Language Processing has attracted significant attention. This is evidenced by the exciting and important activities of the ten sites described in the related survey of EETN members’ activities. On the other hand, given the necessity and the wide interest for engineering applications around autonomous communicative components, for representing complex and dynamic real-world environments, and for developing new technologies related to the abilities of intelligent, autonomous entities, members of the Greek community are quite active in research concerning agents and multi-agent systems, with important results for the AMAS community. Although this is evidenced by the survey in the corresponding area, there is much more to be done, as this will be an important and exciting topic, requiring new brains and collaborative activities. Exciting results and prominent efforts have also been reported by Greek colleagues on web and data mining, data integration, information filtering and the semantic web: This brings in front a remarkably active and successful group of people.
This is a great time for AI, and in Greece we have to strengthen our efforts, being in constant contact with colleagues, industry and society.
Professor,University of the Aegean
Chair of the Board of EETN (200?-200?)