Event Offers Preview of AI Technology Before its Georgia Tour

Thursday, May 2nd, 2024

Members of Georgia Artificial Intelligence in Manufacturing (Georgia AIM) recently previewed custom technology that will tour the state later this year.

The technology, now in development by graduate students at the University of Georgia (UGA) College of Engineering, encompasses six areas of artificial intelligence that could be used by manufacturers. Later this year, each of these “vignettes” — variations of computers and other technology on custom rolling carts — will find a home on a mobile lab developed by the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship (RICE).

The project was made possible through Georgia AIM, a federally funded project connecting artificial intelligence with manufacturing. The 4-year, $65 million U.S. Economic Development Administration grant connects K-12 education, manufacturing, technology innovators and workforce development projects across Georgia.

The goal of the collaboration between UGA engineers and RICE is to bring new technology to all corners of Georgia, giving residents the opportunity to test and explore how it works. The technology on these mobile labs will help introduce residents in rural parts of Georgia to smart technologies — and better-paying jobs.

But first, the technology must be built. In this case, students found open-source code or developed their own, constructed robots or virtual spaces, or created machines to 3-D print custom parts. All of the technology will come with instruction manuals and has been designed to be replicated by educators — or even residents who want to learn more about emerging technologies.

“Artificial intelligence is, first, big data. But then, we broke it up into these six families,” said Beshoy Morkos, an associate professor in UGA’s College of Engineering who is developing the prototypes through UGA’s Innovation Factory lab on campus. His lab is one of the partners in the Georgia AIM grant. “Of course, there is overlap, but the goal is to develop multiple versions of the vignettes that can be used depending on where you are in Georgia.”

The engineering team’s “technology families” include computer vision, natural language processing, automation, and robotics, augmented and virtual reality, additive manufacturing, and industrial internet of things.

During the preview event, members of Georgia AIM’s team heard from graduate students about each of the technology vignettes and how they might apply to manufacturing. For example, computer vision could be used to assist with quality control or part identification, augmented/virtual reality could be used for training employees on new technologies and additive manufacturing could be helpful in modifying new technology on older machines or for prototyping new products.

“With the ‘internet of things’ (IoT) it’s all about creating that data flow. And the first step is accumulating that data,” said Tomas Letelier, a graduate student developing an AI-based vignette using sensors. “This vignette showcases what the capabilities of IoT are; it uses open-source technology, so even people who don’t know a lot about programming can use this. … You can get a lot of information from very simple sensors.”

The graduate students plan to develop a few variations of each vignette, all using code and applications that are easy to access and adapt for general audiences. The project’s objective — and, overall, a goal for Georgia AIM — is to connect manufacturers and members of the workforce to artificial intelligence. Creating accessible technology benefits everyone across the state, from students and new graduates to members of the workforce and manufacturers.

That’s also where the mobile lab comes in. RICE’s team is planning trips across Georgia to introduce communities to the technology vignettes. The team will visit K-12 students, community gatherings and businesses.

Then, once communities have had a chance to interact and learn from the AI in the mobile lab, they can create their own. Jonathan Williams, a senior at Cedar Shoals High School in Athens, is a student in the engineering track at the Athens Community Career Academy. He has been participating in a work-based learning internship at the Innovation Factory to assist in developing guides for each vignette.

Williams’ work helps ensure other career academies and technical colleges can replicate the vignettes on the mobile lab. He’s helping to develop instruction manuals for each set-up using parts that can be easily found online. The project also involves the expertise from KITT Labs and Technologists of Color to develop curricula and learning modules to go along with the vignettes.

“Once these vignettes are created, we will make guides for other career academies and technical colleges,” said Williams. “Many career academies already have a manufacturing track, but not everyone has this level of technology. So, after we outfit the mobile studio, we wanted to make sure this technology gets into others’ hands.”

The mobile lab project is one of more than a dozen projects across Georgia funded through Georgia AIM. For more information, visit georgiaaim.org.