The University of Rhode Island is taking a very different approach with its new AI lab, which may be the first in the U.S. to be located in a university library. For URI, the library location is key, as officials hope that by putting the lab in a shared central place, they can bring awareness of AI to a wider swath of the university's faculty and student body.
The Dean of Libraries, Karim Boughida specifically mentions the lack of diversity of AI and its resulting issues of a biased algorithm as the reason to put an AI lab in the library, a place that values inclusivity. "Without explicit countermeasures, machine learning and AI could magnify existing patterns of inequality in our society", says Boughida.
Unlike a typical AI lab focused on research, the URI AI Lab will offer students and instructors the chance to learn new computing skills, and also encourage them to deepen their understanding of AI and how it might affect their lives, through a series of talks and workshops. The 600-square-foot AI lab will be located on the library’s first floor and will offer beginner- to advanced-level tutorials in areas such as robotics, natural language processing, smart cities, smart homes, the internet of things, and big data.