It was October of 1966 when the AI center at SRI International was first formed. Within its first few years of existence, it was already innovating in AI and Robotics with the construction of Shakey, the first intelligent autonomous robot. Shakey was the first robot to sense and reason about its surrounding environment using the STanford Research Institute Problem Solver (STRIPS.) Shakey operated within a laboratory environment that was mostly engineered to make it easy for the robot to detect and reason about obstacles. Shakey was able to use its onboard camera to detect box-like obstacles and either avoid them or push them to a given position. Shakey’s STRIPS planner was able to construct complex plans consisting of a hierarchy of actions. Much of AI research today is still concerned with the same problems except the domains are larger and far more complex. You can watch SRI International’s promotional video of Shakey here.
Shakey was only the first of many revolutionary technologies to come out of this world famous artificial intelligence center. Other important innovations include the A* graph searching algorithm; Random Sample Consensus (RANSAC) for robust computation; the first hierarchical and non-linear planner NOAH; the second generation robot Flakey with real-time stereo vision; the Small Vision Module for real-time correlation-based stereo and the Centibots large scale distributed robotics system. Of course these are just a few of the center’s innovations in AI and robotics. You can learn more about the center’s history and current projects at the official website.