Stephen Gould has won a research grant from Microsoft for his software work with robots. Photo: Rohan Thomson.
If computers and robots one day surpass humans in their learning abilities, artificial intelligence researcher Stephen Gould could help make it happen.
Dr Gould's research focuses on enabling computers to recognise videos and photos, while also programming machines to teach themselves.
He teaches computers to learn what different objects look like and to recognise the same objects later on.
His software also helps them distinguish the differences between two separate objects.
''I develop learning algorithms for computers to recognise objects in an image and infer where they are placed within a scene,'' Dr Gould said.
''My research has many applications, including robot perception, environmental monitoring and content-based search.''
He said his research could lead to computers becoming more intelligent than their creators.
This is known as ''technological singularity'', a concept first proposed by American futurist Raymond Kurzweil.
''A lot of these learning algorithms can be applied to any task,'' Dr Gould said.
''Natural language and understanding to various sorts of artificial intelligence tasks.''
Dr Gould, a fellow with the Australian National University's College of Engineering and Computer Science, has been awarded $100,000 from Microsoft to further his research.
He said he was honoured to be among a handful of researchers to receive such a prestigious award. He plans on using his Microsoft fellowship to help further his research worldwide. ''It provides me with opportunities to interact with other top international researchers and exchange ideas,'' he said. ''The financial component of the grant is an enormous help in funding many research-related activities.''
While some technologies such as face-detection software in digital cameras are at a commercial level, others are still a few years away. ''Things like driverless cars, they can detect other cars on the road, pedestrians and street signs,'' he said. ''They're legal in Nevada, but someone with a licence needs to be in the car.'' Dr Gould expressed doubts about whether a scenario of a robot uprising, similar to that of the sci-fi movie I, Robot, is possible.
''There has to come a point in time where we develop machines that are as capable as humans in thinking tasks,'' he said.
''But I don't think computers are then going to take over, they're just going to augment what we do.''