Computer scientists develop program that knows all

In today’s digitally driven world, access to information appears limitless. But when you have something specific in mind that you don’t know, it can be surprisingly hard to sift through the volume of information online and know how to search for it. Computer scientists from the UW and the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Seattle have created the first fully automated computer program that teaches everything there is to know about any visual concept.

Called Learning Everything about Anything, or LEVAN, the program searches millions of books and images on the Web to learn all possible variations of a concept, then displays the results to users as a comprehensive, browsable list of images, helping them explore and understand topics quickly in great detail.

“It is all about discovering associations between textual and visual data,” says Ali Farhadi, assistant professor of computer science and engineering. “The program learns to tightly couple rich sets of phrases with pixels in images. This means that it can recognize instances of specific concepts when it sees them.”

The team wants the open-source program to be both an educational tool and an information bank for researchers in the computer-vision community. The team also hopes to offer a smartphone app that can run the program to automatically parse out and categorize photos.