Former IBM research veteran to lead new RMIT AI centre

Juerg von Kaenel will head a newly launched RMIT University Centre for Industrial AI Research and Innovation after a 36-year career at IBM where he most recently built its local research lab in Victoria.

RMIT’s Centre for Industrial AI Research and Innovation (CIAIRI) has been created to bring researchers in artificial intelligence (AI) together with industry partners to help them harness the latest digital technologies, and develop new ones, to meet their business needs, the university said.

The centre’s focus areas will include autonomous decision systems; robotics and human collaboration; machine learning; augmented reality and games; computer vision; data science and business models; natural language processing; and ethics of AI technologies.

Professor Juerg von Kaenel said CIARI would bring national and global industry partners together with AI experts and researchers from across disciplines.

“We are looking forward to working with our industry partners to bring AI from a future promise of nirvana to a pragmatic approach that will solve today’s business needs,” he said.

“Now that we’ve digitised so much and have the ability to capture so much data, AI innovations can help us push things to the next level.

“We now have the opportunity to look at how we can make the technology ‘smarter’ by using that data to make recommendations and decisions via AI. Our vision is to augment the human as a user of these exciting tools, rather than replacing the human all-together.”

CIAIRI’s research director will be Professor John Thangarajah, a researcher in autonomous decision-making systems who has two decades of experience in AI research.

Professor Thangarajah said the centre would work with partners to find tailored and innovative ways to translate research into impact within their organisation.

“Australia has a strong focus on upskilling our workforce and we are also looking forward to developing people’s skills and understanding of these evolving and exciting new digital technologies,” he said.

Professor Thangarajah said a challenge has been to remove the hype and fear around AI and help people understand the actual opportunities ahead.

“New things are exciting but can also be scary so part of CIAIRI’s responsibility will be to overcome that fear barrier for consumers,” he said.

“We are keen to help people understand the huge benefits of AI and give them the skills to take advantage of them.

 “We want people to ask, ‘What can AI do to empower us and how can we work with the technology to make things better for us?’”

The centre’s deputy director will be Rita Arrigo, a digital strategist who has lead digital transformation projects in the public and private sector.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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