Alan Mackworth

Alan Mackworth, Professor Emeritus at the University of British Columbia, is an internationally renowned researcher in Artificial Intelligence (AI), whose landmark contributions have shaped the foundations on the field and have had enormous impact in Computer Vision, Robotics, and beyond. He has been an influential leader at the helm of national and international AI societies, highly effective in making the case for AI research support and in advocating for policies that guide the use of AI to benefit society. Alan has also been an educational leader, initiating the development of the AI and cognitive systems programs at UBC, and co-authoring two books on AI and one on design ethics. He has been a wonderful supervisor, collaborator, mentor and teacher whose advisees are productive researchers themselves worldwide.

Alan’s pioneering research on constraint-based knowledge representations helped establish the field of constraint programming. His early work showed how physical constraints could be exploited to design and analyze intelligent computer vision systems. He subsequently showed how constraint-based programming could advance methods for scheduling, hybrid systems, and control theory, with many applications in robotics. His ideas are embedded in multiple constraint programming languages, and used for scheduling airline flights, truck deliveries and more. Alan is also known as the founding father of the famous world-wide robot soccer challenge RoboCup, stimulating an enormous range of research in perceptually-guided robotics and attracting new talent to the field. In 1993, two of Alan’s landmark papers on constraint satisfaction have been honoured by the premier journal, Artificial Intelligence, as being among the 50 most highly cited papers in its 38-year history. His highly-cited work has also been recognized by numerous other prestigious awards, including a Canada Research Chair, an IBM Research Professorship, and the CAIAC Lifetime Achievement Award.

Alan’s research has led to a successful UBC spinoff company, Point Grey Research, which designed, manufactured and sold digital imaging and robot stereo vision systems. He has also worked with researchers across Canada who are focusing on the application of AI and robotics to the needs of the disabled and the elderly. His team developed a smart wheelchair that is aware of its surroundings and can assist its user in navigating its environment using maps, stereo vision and other sensors, leading to the formation of Braze Mobility, a successful startup that makes wheelchair sensors that ease navigation.

Alan has been an effective leader in the development of AI at UBC, in Canada and internationally. He was the first Canadian president of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), the premier international AI scientific society. He has served as Vice-Chair and Chair of the Standing Committee of The One Hundred Year Study of Artificial Intelligence (AI100) based at Stanford. AI100 conducts longitudinal studies on AI, every five years over the next 100 years, that examines how applications of artificial intelligence will impact the ways in which people work, live and play. He has supervised or co-supervised 44 graduate students, many of whom have gone on to prominent positions in academia and industry, and he has also profoundly influenced the careers of other colleagues.

At UBC, Mackworth has developed or co-developed numerous CS courses and programs in artificial intelligence and related areas, notably UBC’s popular Cognitive Systems program, joint across the Faculties of Arts and Science. He has co-authored two textbooks, Computational Intelligence: A Logical Approach (1998) and Artificial Intelligence: Foundations of Computational Agents (2010; Second Edition, 2017; a third edition is in the works, published by Cambridge University Press). The latter text, which is publicly available online, had ~219,000 unique users from over 200 countries in 2021.

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