Alumni

Researchers at the Cheriton School of Computer Science have pioneered a new method that could be used to develop more natural automated virtual assistants to help people suffering from mental illness. 

Called SMERTI (pronounced smarty), the new method enables virtual assistants to use natural language and emotional cues that change depending on the relationship and situations in which they are used. The result allows for the development of virtual assistants that better connect with people they are used to help.

People suffering from the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease often have difficulty remembering things that recently happened to them. As the disease takes root, a person’s reasoning and behaviour can change. Day-to-day routines — like handwashing — may become challenging for them and they begin to need more assistance from caregivers for simple tasks.

But now there is technology that can help.

The key to people trusting and co-operating with artificially intelligent agents lies in their ability to display human-like emotions, according to a new study by Postdoctoral Fellow Moojan Ghafurian, Master’s candidate Neil Budnarain and Professor Jesse Hoey at the Cheriton School of Computer Science.

Professor Kate Larson has been appointed a University Research Chair in recognition of her outstanding research contributions to the field of artificial intelligence. Waterloo’s designation of University Research Chair recognizes exceptional achievement of faculty and their pre-eminence in a field of knowledge.

Professor Shai Ben-David and his colleagues Pavel Hrubes, Shay Moran, Amir Shpilka and Amir Yehudayoff have shown that a simple machine learning problem — whether an algorithm can extract a pattern from limited data — is mathematically unsolvable because it is linked to inherent shortcomings of mathematics discovered by Austrian mathematician Kurt Gödel in the 1930s.

Professors Olga Veksler and Yuri Boykov joined the David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science earlier this year. Previously, both were full professors in the Department of Computer Science at Western University, where they were faculty members for 14 years.

Their research interests are in the area of computer vision. In particular, Olga’s interests are in visual correspondence and image segmentation, and Yuri’s also include 3D reconstruction and biomedical image analysis.