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​NTU Launches Research Centre for Big Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence

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Those without knowledge of computer programming could soon design their own games and applications using a new edutainment software being developed by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore).

As users input their ideas using a simple drag-and-drop graphical interface, an automatic coding module will work in the background to enable Artificial Intelligence (AI) features.

Such a software would allow lay users to develop sophisticated games, including those with characters or avatars that have their own set of unique behaviours, without doing any complex coding.

A team of NTU researchers led by Professor Ong Yew Soon has developed a prototype software which enables creative individuals to develop sophisticated and visually appealing games in a short time frame.

This advanced AI, named IntelliK, can significantly reduce both the cost and time needed for game developments, which is a key research focus at NTU’s new Data Science & Artificial Intelligence Research Centre (DSAIR).

The new research centre which will receive about S$8 million in funding from NTU over the next three years, has attracted the attention of top international firms.

They include PayPal, a global leader in digital payments and NVIDIA, the AI computing company who redefined modern computer graphics and revolutionised parallel computing.

NTU President Professor Bertil Andersson, said the new centre will combine NTU’s deep expertise in AI and machine learning with big data analytics to pioneer new technologies for key sectors of the Singapore economy.

“NTU is at the forefront of AI algorithms and data analytics, having developed pioneering technologies in advanced supercomputing datacentres and complex decision-making algorithms to aid business processes,” Prof Andersson added.

“With the new NTU research centre, we aim to push the field even further by developing innovations in the way we collect, analyse and utilise the massive amounts of information available today, as big data will form a crucial part of Singapore’s Smart Nation infrastructure.”

Innovative research projects

Apart from working on a new edutainment software that will allow even lay users to design games and apps, the new centre is also working on several innovative projects.

One project involves new crowd-sensing technologies using LEDs (Light Emitting Devices). With LEDs becoming the top choice for energy-saving lighting, it can potentially be used to detect the number of occupants in a current location or the number of cars traveling on the roads.

With the information, smart control systems will be able to adjust the lights and air-conditioning of a room based on its current usage, or to adjust traffic lights to the traffic density.

In the emerging area of Financial Technology or Fintech, Masters and PHD students from NTU are working closely with PayPal on FinTech research topics that will not only strengthen the existing tools in the financial industry, but also create and enable the next generation of payment systems as well as new types of systems.

These research areas include applying new data science and AI techniques to improve customer service experience; mine network effects; perform implicit authentication; assess credit risk; as well as improve prediction of fraudulent behavior.

As part of PayPal’s aim to nurture Singapore’s next generation of FinTech talent to drive innovation out of Singapore, these NTU students are able to gain access to some of PayPal’s best talent, resources and experience.

Advanced research facilities

As a start, the new centre has acquired two state-of-the-art DGX-1 systems from NVIDIA, which is the company’s most advanced computing system for deep learning.

The DGX-1 extreme computation capacities can significantly improve the speed and scalability of deep learning algorithms, which can enable NTU scientists to develop large-scale and complex solutions for problems not efficiently solved by conventional computing systems.

Problems easily done by a five-year-old child, such as image recognition, understanding the context of an image and producing text descriptions of it, can only be tackled using deep learning – a computation model which mimics the neural network in the human brain.

Among the projects NTU researchers have with NVIDIA is the development of a deep learning model that helps developers find software bugs and vulnerabilities in complex computing systems, so as to ensure the quality and security of their software.

DSAIR will also have a KunLun server, unveiled last year by Huawei as the world’s first 32-socket x86 mission critical server, an ultrafast and reliable computer system that can house up to 32 CPUs (Central Processing Units).

The multi-disciplinary research centre will have 60 scientists and researchers at steady state and will be jointly headed by Prof Chee Yeow Meng, Chair of NTU’s School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, and Professor Ong Yew Soon, Chair of NTU’s School of Computer Science and Engineering.

In addition to industry-focused research, the centre will also develop edutainment technologies like IntelliK, which can interest and educate more young people in the fields of data science and AI, to help build up a local talent pool to support Singapore’s push towards being a Smart Nation.

About Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

A research-intensive public university, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has 33,500 undergraduate and postgraduate students in the colleges of Engineering, Business, Science, Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences, and its Interdisciplinary Graduate School. It also has a medical school, the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, set up jointly with Imperial College London.

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