Rob Williams

Rob Williams

Discovery Lab Global (DLG)

Talk Title: Artificial Intelligence Research – Through the Eyes of an Avatar





DR. ROB WILLIAMS is the founding director of Discovery Lab – Global (DLG) – an entrepreneurial STEM lab focused on strategic workforce development. Dr. Williams ran the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Discovery Lab STEM workforce development program for 10 years before retiring to continue it philosophically as DLG focused on primarily 1st & 2nd year undergraduates to grow our future graduate students. The DLG projects portfolio include technology areas such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, virtual reality, big data analytics, telepresence robotics, 3D printed expendable drones, wearable technologies, and novel concepts such as thought-controlled robotics. Prior to the AFRL Discovery Lab program, he was the technical advisor for an advanced research branch within Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Sensors Directorate specializing in advanced sensor exploitation, a senior intelligence analyst at the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC), a graduate engineering professor at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT), and a DARPA Program Manager. He is a past recipient of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) national Engineer of the Year award and the NAECON Joe Sciabica Innovation Award.

There is growing global interest and competition among nations and global industries to gain dominance in all things artificial intelligence (AI). This race to become the dominating global leader in AI is well underway with a growing number of countries developing and releasing national strategies to promote the use and development of AI for commercial and defense priorities. But these initiatives highlight the growing need for AI innovations and AI innovators.

In response, we present a novel crowd-sourcing strategy for accelerating today’s AI innovations while also growing tomorrow’s AI innovators that we call Massive Open Online Research as a natural extension of the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) concept. MOOR utilizes open-source virtual reality (VR) technologies and publicly available information (PAI) to create a 3D virtual AI research campus we call Deep HoriXons (DHX). This “battle-tested” approach has the potential to attract and engage scores of top-tier students from across the nation in AI pathfinding and prototyping projects within a 3D virtual AI campus with the potential to scale to hundreds of students nationally. A 3D virtual campus was successfully piloted under an Air Force STEM workforce development program that ran for 10 years before it ended upon the founding director retirement to continue it philosophically and further refine as the separate and independently operated non-profit Discovery Lab Global (DLG).

DLG’s unique crowd-sourcing strategy utilizing a 3D virtual AI campus approach can be easily adapted and implemented by global AI competitors interested in cost-effectively accelerating their own Artificial Intelligence initiatives while also attracting and growing future AI talent. Successes and challenges will be highlighted.