Shaoen Wu: AI and Robots that Make Lives Safer

Dr. Shaoen Wu’s curriculum vitae displays a mind-boggling array of research interests. Intelligent Internet of Things. Smart health. Smart homes. And using machine learning, particularly deep learning, to mine intelligence from big data in all these areas.

It’s almost impossible now to imagine that, as a child, Wu had minimal exposure to technology.

“In China, I grew up in a small, countryside village; we did not see any computers.”

When it came time for Wu to choose a college major in China, he took a chance and picked information technology. “I had no idea what major to choose. My high school did not have a computer. I had never seen a computer.”

He has since made up for lost time. Earning a PhD in computer science and software engineering at Auburn University, Wu is now an associate professor of computer science in Ball State’s College of Sciences and Humanities. With expertise that includes artificial intelligence and automation, he’s been published 26 times in refereed journals.

While his research excites him, so does mentoring future researchers by engaging students in his projects.

“All those students involved in my work gain actual experience. It’s not virtual. It’s not simulated. They have to work on robots. So, they gain hands-on experience that they cannot get from the classroom or from the traditional lecture environment.”

Wu’s research focuses on “national strategic areas” identified by the government and business community. As a result, his projects are well-funded and often include several paid student employees. The National Science Foundation, NASA, Cisco, NVIDIA, Intel, Dell, and Microsoft are among groups funding his research.

He loves the idea of using robots to improve our lives, to carry out tasks that are — as other technologists have said — dull, dirty, and dangerous.

“If we can design things that are automated to help people, that would be very beneficial to this world,” Wu said.

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