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Alumni Hall of Fame 2016
Though a long time coming, it is common today to see the fruits of artificial intelligence appearing all around us. Part of that world is a set of computer vision systems that mimic our own sensing and reasoning capabilities. One of the earliest versions of such a system was developed forty years ago, when Gerald Agin and Gerald Gleason developed the “SRI Vision Module,” which analyzed two-dimensional images to locate and inspect manufactured parts. The emphasis was on material handling and, in particular, assisting the use of robots in manufacturing. According to a 1983 NASA report, their contribution became the “basis for several sophisticated commercial vision systems.” SRI sold this module to 15 different companies and in doing so helped them introduce computer vision into the automation systems that began appearing in the 1980s and 1990s. The success of this new sensory feedback technique gave SRI a lasting reputation in the field.
In 1995, SRI won a project from the Defense Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the technology of which would meet a significant need in American ground forces. As the Middle East conflicts began to draw in Army National Guard troops from across the nation, it was clear that these forces needed premobilization training. SRI’s technology, called Deployable Force-on-Force Instrumented Range System (DFIRST), could instrument ground force soldiers and their equipment so well that training maneuvers could realistically simulate battlefield conditions, as well as augment mission planning and assessment. The program was so successful that for more than two decades Army National Guard units and the U.S. Army became strong advocates and sponsors of this sizable and still ongoing work. Though it obviously takes teams to make efforts of this size work, in this case two people stand out: Gerald Lucha, for leading the design and implementation of the enabling technology, and Michael Boldrick, for his leadership in building the long-term sponsorships and hiring the appropriate staff for such military fieldwork. The awardees’ complementary contributions have enabled SRI to contribute markedly to the readiness of our troops as well as the overall health of the Institute. The program, one of the largest at SRI over its 20-year history, grew to such importance that in 2015 it was spun off as an SRI subsidiary.