Tetherless World Research Constellation
As a 12-year-old boy watching 2001: A Space Odyssey, James Hendler’s eyes became fixed on HAL-9000, the computer that could predict equipment failure, throw in a few philosophical lines for good measure, and sing “Bicycle Built for Two” while going insane.
The movie inspired the senior constellation professor of Rensselaer’s Tetherless World Research Constellation into a lifelong career in artificial intelligence (AI) and computing.
“The people in the movie were boring, but the computer was fascinating,” he says with a chuckle. “I wanted to create that level of artificial intelligence someday. The idea of a computer that could understand and do so much was just brilliant.”
Appointed in January, Hendler will lead the constellation in the development of technologies that will increase the scope of the Web-accessible world in which personal digital assistants, cameras, music-listening devices, cell phones, laptops, and other devices have converged to offer more accessible interactive information and communication.
Incorporating research in pervasive computing and distributed intelligent systems, the constellation will encompass multidisciplinary teams of senior and junior faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates in information technology, computer science, and cognitive science, and will reach out to the entire campus for support and collaboration.
“This constellation is the start of something very exciting,” says Hendler. “I wanted to find a computer science department that was growing and a university that would be open-minded and, most important, would support interdisciplinary work among many fields and universities. These are academic qualities that Rensselaer is well-known for.”