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'This is groundbreaking': University at Buffalo to be hub for AI

Posted at 6:17 PM, Mar 22, 2024

AMHERST, NY (WKBW) — There’s an effort to make New York State the hub for artificial intelligence and the University at Buffalo will become the home to Empire AI.

Empire AI hub to come to UB.

“I think this technology is a powerful tool. It's powerful and I think it belongs in the hands of educators,” said NYS Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes.

State lawmakers and University at Buffalo leaders gathered Friday afternoon at UB’s North campus in Amherst where they came together in support of creating a state-wide artificial intelligence hub at UB.

Governor Kathy Hochul announced earlier this year that Empire AI would be established at the university.

Despite concerns AI could be used in harmful ways, these leaders believe it could be used for “public good” especially in the education field.

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Scott Weber, provost, vice president for academic affairs.

“The Empire AI consortium will harness their expertise to approve medical interventions and clinical care to mitigate the disruptive forces of climate change to ensure access to the very best education across K-12, and to ensure the integrity and security of information,” explained Scott Weber, provost, vice president for academic affairs.

But UB says it already has been a leader in AI for nearly 50 years. More than 200 faculty members here on campus are already engaged in AI projects.

“Before artificial intelligence became the phenomenon it is, in the 1990s, researchers at UB developed the first handwritten address interpretation system used by the United States postal service, saving billions of dollars and helping to streamline the entire mail processing system,” described Venu Govindaraju, vice president, Research and Economic Development.

Venu Govindaraju, vice president, Research and Economic Development.

UB’s vice president for Research and Economic Development tells me the university is already leading the way to create AI to help with a shortage of speech teachers for school children.

“Provide intervention tools so that children can get customized one one-on-one personal attention because every child is different. Today, we don't have a sufficient number of speech-language pathologists to have a one-on-one with every child. So that's where artificial intelligence can come and it's actually a project of such great public good,” replied Venu Govindaraju, UB.

But there is one more hurdle to overcome. This plan must be approved in the upcoming state budget.

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AI work already underway at UB.

People-Stokes says this research would be "groundbreaking" and is certain it will be approved.

“I believe that when we do pass the budget, everything that the governor has proposed as we laid today, will be in there for university,” remarked Peoples-Stoke.

“About how much is it total?” Buckley asked.

“I can't give you a number on that,” responded Peoples-Stokes. “This is groundbreaking. This is a big deal.”