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A Shakey Award for W&L Alum Overholtzer

Congratulations are in order for Adam Overholtzer, of the Washington and Lee Class of 2004, who captured an award called “the Shakey” for a promotional video that he helped produce.

Adam’s video won the prize at the Association for Advancement of Artificial Intelligence’s annual conference in July. According to the AAAI, the goal of the competition is “to show the world how much fun AI is by documenting exciting artificial intelligence advances in research, education, and application.”

The Oscar-like Shakeys are modeled on Shakey the Robot, the first mobile robot able to reason about its surroundings. The Stanford Research Institute developed it in 1966.

Adam’s winning video promotes an iPad app on which he’s worked as an interaction designer at SRI International’s Artificial Intelligence System. Called “Inquire,”  it is the prototype of an intelligent textbook. As students read the text (based on “Campbell Biology,” one of the most popular college-level introductory textbooks), they can highlight concepts and get definitions. Or they are prompted to ask their own questions, and the software, using artificial intelligence, guides them to the answer.

The app is still in the testing phase; here’s an article from New Scientist that gives a good description of what it hopes to do.

SRI International is a Silicon Valley nonprofit research institute whose work has included development of the voice-enabled virtual personal assistant, Siri, that was incorporated in the Apple iPhone.

As an undergrad computer science major, Adam worked with Simon Levy in the W&L Computer Science Department on a video game designed to make the challenge by computerized “opponents” less predictable. He and Simon presented a paper on the game at the First Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment Conference in 2005. He received a master’s in human-computer interaction from Carnegie Mellon. And because, as they say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, it’s interesting to note that Adam is the son of Jeff Overholtzer, the manager of strategic planning and communication in W&L’s Information Technology Services.