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The BCS Machine Intelligence Prize is awarded for a live demonstration of 'Progress Towards Machine Intelligence'.

Press Release
Luton, January 6, 2006

Electrolux Sponsored Machine Intelligence Awards reveals IFOMIND - a robot with the power to reason

Will robots one day rule the world? For decades this notion has both fascinated and terrified humans, our hungry imagination fed by Hollywood blockbusters and intriguing sci-fi novels. Now a new generation of robots promises an astonishing breakthrough in the world of Artificial Intelligence as they become capable of cognitive thought processes.

The 2005 Fourth British Computer Society's Annual Prize for Progress towards Machine Intelligence sponsored by Electrolux has been won by IFOMIND, a mobile robot system that demonstrates intelligence as it meets a new object in its world. Based on Khepera, a robot commercially available from K-Team, the machine intelligence system was designed and programmed by a team led by Professor David Bell from Queens University, Belfast. It beat stiff competition to win the award, such as AI guru, Rollo Carpenter and his witty conversational companion, George, as well as an intelligent portal building system and a talented robot based on the popular game of Connect 4.


IFOMIND reacts initially in an 'instinctive' way to its first perception of an unknown object that it encounters; at first it is generally fearful. However, because the robot is equipped with a human-like capability of inquisitiveness, it realises that it can react in another way and does not have to be scared of something that may not be harmful to it. So, the robot observes the object from a distance and takes note of how it behaves and how it reacts to different approaches; the robot is then able to decide on the best approach– or whether to avoid it. This knowledge can then be retained by the robot as it carries on and meets many more objects. This is a remarkable leap forward in the domain of Machine Intelligence as IFOMIND is able to use logical thought processes in order to decide the best way to interact with the objects that it meets. The implications of this are huge, for example as David Bell from the IFOMIND team explains, "A system that can observe events in an unknown scenario, learn and participate as a child would is a major challenge in AI. We have not achieved this, but we think we've made a small advance." - David Bell

IFOMIND in action

David likens the reaction of the robot to the reaction of the tiger in an ancient Chinese folk story from the Tang Dynasty. In the story, the tiger encounters an animal it has never seen before (in this case a donkey). To start with the tiger is wary - even rather frightened - of this larger, noisy 'object'. But its hunger and pride (equivalent to the robots pre-programmed instinct for curiosity) is even greater than the instinct to run away. So the tiger waits, watches and teases the donkey, and finally concludes it is no threat and attacks. In the robot's case it waits and watches to see if can get some new information.

The other members of the QUB team were QingXiang Wu and Marcel Ono, and the work was partially funded by Invest Northern Ireland.

Runners up Electrolux Sponsored Machine Intelligence Award: George - Chatbot

Rollo Carpenter's entry was a chatty personality, George who can be found at www.jabberwacky.com. Rollo explains, "George learns from every word everyone says to him - to imitate people, as well as trying to be himself. Years of chatting online mean that he can talk about just about anything and even talk many languages. He won the Loebner Prize in 2005 as the 'most human chat program'". Rollo goes on to add that he believes the future of George holds many exciting prospects, such as "your toaster embarking on a comic debate on the nature of toast, or your fridge imitating the way that your partner asks for a beer!" He concludes that "household appliances with character could soon become companions that are regarded as part of the family."
George chatting away George himself

Sponsored by Electrolux, this prestigious award is open to anyone that can demonstrate advances that they have achieved in the arena of applied Machine Intelligence. Professor Max Bramer, chairman of SGAI explains, "As a group we are committed to fostering achievement, capability and awareness of applied artificial intelligence. One of the most effective ways that we can do this is to ensure that progress is showcased and rewarded."

Electrolux and Machine Intelligence

Electrolux is already a leader in the field of home appliance related machine intelligence, with intelligent appliances such as the Electrolux Trilobite 2.0 - the world's most sophisticated robotic vacuum cleaner. This sleek and stylish miniature robot glides around the floor, cleaning as it goes and using ultrasound technology to navigate around, with a built-in stair sensor, before taking itself back to its home to recharge. Even robots it seems, get tired! Although, boasting a programmable timer, YOU choose when it will vacuum.

Latest industry innovation is also available in the form of a talking washing machine, the Zanussi-Electrolux ZWV1651. This chatty appliance demonstrates its high degree of perception as it helpfully guides its user through the entire washing process, making shrinking your favorite jumper a thing of the past!

Andy Mackay, Brand & Marketing Director for Electrolux Major Appliances and Floorcare comments, "Electrolux is delighted to sponsor an award that helps to push further the boundaries of new technology. As a company which prides itself on 'thoughtful design innovation', this seems a fitting award for the brand to associate itself with."

Sales of domestic appliance robots reached 39,000 units in 2003 and are forecast to hit 20 million by 2008. Robots may soon no longer be confined to the realms of science fiction, with Electrolux sponsoring major advancements such as these; they could soon be doing the housework and feeding the cat, making the day of the android sooner than we first thought!

The Electrolux Group is the world's largest producer of powered appliances for kitchen, cleaning and outdoor use, such as refrigerators, washing machines, cookers, vacuum cleaners, chainsaws, lawn mowers, and garden tractors. Every year, customers in more than 150 countries buy more than 55 million Electrolux Group products for both consumer and professional use sold under famous brands such as AEG, Electrolux, Zanussi, Frigidaire, Eureka and Husqvarna. In 2004, Electrolux had sales of SEK 121 billion and 72,000 employees.