News

Campus Reopening Notice

Starting June 16th, vaccinated EECS faculty, staff, and students can voluntarily return to their offices, labs and other research spaces in Cory and Soda Halls if they follow the procedures outlined in the EECS Safety Manual.  Building restrictions for non-affiliated collaborators, event attendees, and visitors will continue but be loosened over time. Cory and Soda Halls will open during the first week in August.  We are not hosting events or activities until we receive more clarity about regulatory requirements and are able to resume full operations. Most employees will return to campus on July 12th, and in-person instruction will resume for the Fall semester on August 25th, unless otherwise specified by campus. Please continue to check the University Coronavirus Updates and Resources for latest information.

New AI system allows legged robots to navigate unfamiliar terrain in real time

A new AI system, Rapid Motor Adaptation (RMA), enhances the ability of legged robots, without prior experience or calibration, to adapt to, and traverse, unfamiliar terrain in real time.  A test robot figured out how to walk on sand, mud, and tall grass, as well as piles of dirt, pebbles, and cement, in fractions of a second.  The project is part of an industry-academic collaboration with the Facebook AI Research (FAIR) group and the Berkeley AI Research (BAIR) lab that includes CS Prof. Jitendra Malik as Principal Investigator, his grad student Ashish Kumar as lead author, and alumnus Deepak Pathak (Ph.D. 2019, advisors: Trevor Darrell and Alexei Efros), now an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon, among others.  RMA combines a base policy algorithm that uses reinforcement learning to teach the robot how to control its body, with an adaptation module that teaches the robot how to react based on how its body moves when it interacts with a new environment.  “Computer simulations are unlikely to capture everything,” said Kumar. “Our RMA-enabled robot shows strong adaptation performance to previously unseen environments and learns this adaptation entirely by interacting with its surroundings and learning from experience. That is new.”  RMA's base policy and adaptation module run asynchronously and at different frequencies so that it can operate reliably on a small onboard computer.  

Cloud startup Databricks raises $1 billion in Series G funding

Databricks, a cloud startup founded by CS Adjunct Assistant Prof. Ali Ghodsi, CS Prof. Scott Shenker, CS Prof. Ion Stoica, and alumni Andrew Konwinski (M.S. '09/Ph.D. 12, advisor: Randy Katz), Reynold Xin (Ph.D. '13, advisor: Ion Stoica), Patrick Wendell (M.S. '13, advisor: Ion Stoica), and Matei Zaharia (Ph.D. '13, advisors: Scott Shenker & Ion Stoica), has received $1 billion in a Series G funding round.  Franklin Templeton led the round and now values the company at $28 billion.  Amazon Web Services, CapitalG, the growth equity arm of Google parent Alphabet, and Salesforce Ventures are backing Databricks for the first time, while Microsoft joins a group of existing investors including BlackRock, Coatue, T. Rowe Price and Tiger Global.  Ghodsi, who is CEO of the company, says Databricks plans to use the funds to accelerate its international presence. “This lets us really hit the gas and go aggressive in these big markets. It’s almost like starting the company all over again,” he says.  Databricks grew out of the AMPLab project and is built on top of Apache Spark, an open-source analytics tool developed at Berkeley.  The company provides data analytics and AI tools to businesses.  It has grown more than 75% year-over-year, with the majority of its revenue coming from enterprises like Comcast, Credit Suisse, Starbucks and T-Mobile, who use it as a "data lake house"--a place to store structured and unstructured data, then layer business intelligence or machine-learning tools easily on top.

Ambidextrous wins SVR 'Good Robot' Excellence Award

Ambidextrous, a company co-founded in 2018 by CS Prof. Ken Goldberg, his graduate student Jeffrey Mahler (CS Ph.D. '18), and AutoLab postdocs (and ME alumni) Stephen McKinley (M.S. '14/Ph.D. '16) and David Gealy (B.S. '15), has won the inaugural Silicon Valley Robotics (SVR) ‘Good Robot’ Innovation and Overall Excellence Industry Award.  Ambidextrous utilizes an AI-enhanced operating system, Dexterity Network (Dex-Net) 4.0, that empowers versatile robots for automated e-commerce order fulfillment by allowing them to learn to pick, scan, and pack a wide variety of items in just a few hours.  This universal picking (UP) technology has enabled new levels of robotic flexibility, reliability, and accuracy.

Deep learning helps robots grasp and move objects with ease

CS Prof. Ken Goldberg is the co-author of a study published in Science Robotics which describes the creation of a new artificial intelligence software that gives robots the speed and skill to grasp and smoothly move objects, making it feasible for them to soon assist humans in warehouse environments.  He and postdoc Jeffrey Ichnowski had previously created a Grasp-Optimized Motion Planner that could compute both how a robot should pick up an object and how it should move to transfer the object from one location to another, but the motions it generated were jerky.  Then they, along with EECS graduate student Yahav Avigal and undergraduate (3rd year MS) student Vishal Satish, integrated a deep learning neural network into the motion planner, cutting the average computation time from 29 seconds to 80 milliseconds, or less than one-tenth of a second.  Goldberg predicts that, with this and other advances in robotic technology, robots could be assisting in warehouse environments in the next few years.

Ali Niknejad wins 2020 SIA University Research Award

EECS alumnus and Prof. Ali Niknejad (M.S. '97/Ph.D. '00, advisor: Robert Meyer) has won the 2020 Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) University Research Award.  This award recognizes researchers in both technology and design who have made “a lifetime of great impact to the semiconductor industry.”  Niknejad was cited for “noteworthy achievements that have advanced analog, RF, and mm-wave circuit design and modeling, which serve as the foundation of 5G+ technologies.”  Stanford ME Prof. Kenneth Goodson also won the award this year.  “Research is the engine of innovation in the semiconductor industry, enabling breakthroughs that power our economy and help solve society’s great challenges,” said John Neuffer, SIA president and CEO. “The work of Drs. Goodson and Niknejad has greatly advanced chip technology and helped keep America at the leading edge of innovation.”  Niknejad, who previously received the 2012 ASEE Frederick Emmons Terman Award for his textbook on electromagnetics and RF integrated circuits, will accept the SIA award during the 2020 SIA Leadership Forum and Award Celebration on November 19th.

Mike Stonebraker wins 2020 C&C Prize

EECS Prof. Emeritus Michael Stonebraker has won the prestigious NEC Computers and Communications (C&C) Prize "For Pioneering Contributions to Relational Database Systems." The prize is awarded "to distinguished persons in recognition of outstanding contributions to research and development and/or pioneering work in the fields of semiconductors, computers, and/or telecommunications and in their integrated technologies."  In the early 1970's, Stonebraker and Prof. Eugene Wong began researching Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS), which culminated in the creation of the Interactive Graphics and Retrieval System (INGRES), a practical and efficient implementation of the relational model running on Unix-based DEC machines.  It included a number of key ideas still widely used today, including B-trees, primary-copy replication, the query rewrite approach to views and integrity constraints, and the idea of rules/triggers for integrity checking in an RDBMS.  Stonebraker, Wong, and Prof. Larry Rowe, founded a startup called Relational Technology, Inc. (renamed Ingres Corporation), which they sold to Computer Associates in the early 1990's for $311M.  Stonebraker's student, Robert Epstein (Ph.D. '80), founded the startup Sybase, which created the code used as a basis for the Microsoft SQL Server.  Stonebraker also created Postgres in the late 1980's, which made it easier for programmers to modify or add to the optimizer, query language, runtime, and indexing frameworks.  It broadened the commercial database market by improving both database programmability and performance, making it possible to push large portions of a number of applications inside the database, including geographic information systems and time series processing.  Stonebraker retired from Berkeley in 2000 to found more companies and become an adjunct professor at MIT.  His achievements have been recognized with an IEEE John von Neumann Medal in 2005, ACM A.M. Turing Award in 2014, and ACM SIGMOD Systems Award in 2015.

An interview with Tapia 2020 keynote speaker Colin Parris

EE alumnus Colin Parris (M.S. '87, Ph.D. '94, advisor: Domenico Ferrari), the Ken Kennedy keynote speaker at the 2020 ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference, is the subject of a CMDIT interview.  He talks about his childhood, the value of diversity in technological fields, and what young people interested in tech careers should know.  His keynote lecture, titled "How Digital Technology Will Shape the Future of Business," discussed how AI's physical/digital marriage can accelerate business growth and create new opportunities for people who want to find solutions to some of the world's biggest problems.  Parris is currently the Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at GE Digital.

Ana Claudia Arias to participate in new $20M AI food systems research institute

EECS Prof. Ana Claudia Arias has been selected to participate in a new food systems research institute funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF),  US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).  The award of $20M over five years will aim to improve US food systems to address issues such as pandemic-driven food system security and safety; improving crop yield, quality and nutrition; decreasing energy and water resource consumption; and increasing production and eliminating food waste.  The objective of the new USDA-NIFA Institute for Artificial Intelligence for Next-Generation Food Systems (AIFS) will focus on the creation of digital replicas of complex food systems, so-called “digital twins,” which can be safely manipulated and optimized in a virtual world and deployed in the physical world afterwards, reducing costs of experiments and accelerating development of new technologies.  A team of ten researchers from the UC Berkeley Next Generation Food Systems Center will combine forces with researchers from five other institutions including UC Davis, Cornell, UIUC, UC ANR, and the USDA, to staff the new center.

Gitanjali Swamy is one of the most Influential Indian Women in Technology in 2020

EECS alumna Gitanjali Swamy (Ph.D. '96, advisor: Robert Brayton) has been named one of the most Influential Women in Technology in 2020 by India's Analytics Insight magazine.   She was recognized for "helping enterprises realize their potential through the 'Innovation of Things (IoT).'"  Swamy is the Managing Partner of IoTask, which provides consulting and other advisory services (including a complete methodological guide at the policy and business-planning stage) in areas like Internet of Things, Mobile, and Analytics. She focuses on innovation for environmental, social, governance (ESG) and public-private projects.  Swamy also currently serves as the representative to the EQUALS Coalition of the United Nations, where she chairs the Gender Equitable Investment Working Committee, Research Fellow, and Director at Harvard’s Private Capital Research Institute and the Co-founder of UC Berkeley’s Witi@UC Initiative.  She has founded, built and was Board Director for a number of innovation enterprises, for which she led investment execution from seed stage to over US$1 billion. She was also involved in the formation of MIT’s Opencourseware, the Auto-ID consortium, and the MIT Engine investment vehicle, and has held operating roles at MathWorks and Mentor Graphics.  

Dawn Tilbury and Feng Zhou to present keynotes at BCS 2020

EECS alumni Dawn Tilbury (EE PhD '94, advisor: Shankar Sastry) and Feng Zhou (CS PhD '07, advisor: Eric Brewer) have been selected to present keynote addresses at the Berkeley China Summit (BCS) 2020 conference, which will be held virtually on September 18-19th.  BCS is  a full-day conference that aims to connect China’s businesses and investors with the technology, engineering, and business innovation expertise on the UC Berkeley campus and across the Bay Area.  This year's theme is "Redefine & Reconnect: Technology Empowering the World," which will a focus on the impact business, technology and culture have on "innovation in the Enterprise Service, Entrepreneurship, Healthcare and Senior Care sectors."  Tilbury is currently the head of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) Directorate of Engineering.  Zhou founded Youdao, Inc. (NYSE: DAO.US), a Chinese company that provides "learning services and products" for online courses, NetEase Cloud Classroom, and Chinese University MOOC, in addition to online marketing services.