UC San Diego Researchers Selected for IBM Watson AI XPRIZE ® Competition


A team of researchers at UC San Diego has been selected to take part in the IBM Watson AI XPRIZE ®. The competition aims to accelerate the development and adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies that are truly scalable and have the capacity to solve grand challenges facing society.

The UC San Diego scientists plan to give some of the world’s most sophisticated computing systems the ability to come up with new ideas and perform “creative machine thinking.” This work has applications for a wide range of areas, including contextual data analytics, transportation systems, communications networks, studying the spread of infectious diseases as well as malware, cybersecurity, genomic medicine, autonomous vehicles, and the study of the biological brain and neurological disorders.


The UC San Diego team – called the UC San Diego Center for Engineered Natural Intelligence Team – is one of only eight university-led teams in the competition, which includes $5 million in prizes. One hundred forty seven teams will take part in the first round of the competition.

The driving force behind the UC San Diego team is the leadership of the UC San Diego Center for Engineered Natural Intelligence (CENI), which is a new interdisciplinary research center at the Jacobs School of Engineering. The team is leveraging its unique expertise in theoretical and computational neuroscience, experimental neurobiology, neural engineering, mathematics, and algorithms to develop natural intelligence for machines. The goal is to give cognitive computing systems the ability to think creatively on their own and to arrive at original ideas and thoughts about specific problems or specific classes of problems. Getting there will require the researchers to leverage their work on a new class of dynamic artificial neural networks that go beyond traditional machine learning methods.


For the XPRIZE competition, the UC San Diego team is working on proof-of-concept demos that will help the general public experience what is possible when they apply the work of the Center for Engineered Natural Intelligence to some of the world’s most advanced cognitive computing systems.

“We are working towards enabling cognitive computing systems to achieve creative machine thinking through the generation of internal representations that go beyond patterns in data ingested by these systems. We are also working to enable these systems to express those thoughts to humans in real time using natural language,” said Gabriel A. Silva, a professor of bioengineering and neurosciences at UC San Diego, who leads the Center for Engineered Natural Intelligence. “The algorithms we are developing and the engineering we are doing to push the limits of artificial intelligence are also allowing us to approach the study of the biological brain as a system from new perspectives. This is extremely rewarding because it offers new opportunities to understand how the biological brain functions.”

This article was originally published on This Week @ UC San Diego.