The International Conference on Natural Language Processing (ICON-2004) and International Conference on Knowledge Based Computer Systems (KBCS-2004) were held currently from December 19 to 22, 2004 at Hotel Kakatiya. Hosted by International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad (IIITH) in collaboration with Centre for Development of Advance Computing (C-DAC). The Conferences are acted as a forum for promoting interaction among researchers and implementers in the field of Natural Language Processing and Artificial Intelligence in India and abroad. These twin conferences have shown that the highly sophisticated area of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Speech Processing and Natural Language Translation has achieved maturity in India. The presence of high level delegation of trustees form International Joint Conference of AI (IJCAI) in the Inaugural session was a clear indication that India is poised to emerge as leader in these important fields of Natural Language Translation and Artificial Intelligence. The Sponsorship support provided by Govt Of India (S&T,DIT) ,AP Govt(C&IT),TCS,CDAC, Media Labs Asia, Satyam Computer Services Ltd, HP Labs and Reliance Infocomm, helped the organizing teams of CDAC, CIIL, Natural Language Processing Association of India and IIIT Hyderabad to arrange an outstanding Conference, both in content and participations.
The twin conferences were launched by holding six pre-conference tutorials on Sunday the 19 Dec, 2004 at IIIT, Hyderabad. The following important tutorials by International and National experts were highly appreciated by over 100 participants.
Internationally renowned AI and Robotic expert Professor Raj Reddy of CMU USA inaugurated the Conference on Monday, 20 December 2004 at Hotel Kakatiya. In his Inaugural Address Dr Reddy presented a grand challenge for the Research Community to build computers that can speak an interact with human being in a natural manner. He showed a video of a natural language interface with machine interpreting the expressions and emotions of a human being the way, it should be in future. He emphasized the right to accurate information in the language of the person at the time he desires as three fundamental rights. He mentioned that human problems need in the researchare not being attempted anywhere in the world at present. He implored the researcher community to take on these problems and get in touch with him, if they have any solutions. He emphasized the urgent requirement of intelligent agents needed to provide a workable environment for human beings.
Dr Rajeev Sangal Director IIIT Hyderabad and Programme Chairman of ICON - 2004 briefed the delegates on the main objectives of starting such an initiative in 2002 and also setting up of NLP Association in India to bring together the researchers and the users so that suitable solution can be attempted. He thanked the trustees of IJCAI for participating in the Inaugural session and also allotting the IJCAI-2007 to India. There is resurgence in the field of AI, NLP, Speech and Vision. These technologies are poised to make major impact on industry and society, particularly in e-governance and other mass applications. As a field of scientific study, machine learning approaches are being applied to NLP with spectacular results. Many new research groups in India are being formed to work in these exciting fields. He was very happy with the response to the twin conferences. He informed IIIT has established itself as a major research centre for Natural Language Processing (NLP) in India for sure and perhaps in the world as well. Over 60 Researchers are engaged in development of tools that will enable use of computer databases by speaking their questions in their native tongue. On the display during the poster session was Shakti a tool that could enable a traveler from Chennai to ask a question in their language (English). The question thatâs automatically get translated in Hindi to the enquiry clerk and enables him to reply the same in the language of the traveler.
Prof PVS Rao of Tata Infotech and Professor Aravind K Joshi of University of Pennsylvania USA stressed the need to further strengthen the initiative taken decades ago under United Nation Programmes in leading research Institutions like TATA Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) so that India can benefit by providing much needed solution for human computer interface in natural language.
Dr J C Mohanty IAS, Principal Sectary in Department of Communications and Information Technology also stressed on the need for strengthening Broad band connectivity for India to benefit the rural masses and for this he announced the targets set by the Government of Andhra Pradesh to connect 22000 villages throughout the state with Rajeev Internet Village Kiosks. As the broad band reaches common masses it will be important to build computers that can work on local languages using speech and in the Rajeev Internet Village Kiosks. He also mentioned that Natural Language Processing can also serve to translate and help in generation of content as well as assist in spreading the education to the rural masses. He informed the audience of the AP Government desire to have affordable internet connection of 1GB/Sec in villages provided, the researcher come out with solutions of giving intelligent natural language interface for use by the rural population. He also assured the IJCAI trustee of Government of Andhra Pradesh full support to any such event strengthening the Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language (NL) interface in rural villages.
With over 300 delegate attending the Conference from over 20 Countries including USA, Canada, UK, Australia, Spain and New Zealand, there is rich programme with internationally renowned experts in AI and NLP inclding, Prof Tony Cohn, University of Leeds, UK, Prof Aravind K Joshi, University of Pennsylvania, USA, Prof Martin Kay, Stanford University, USA, Prof Ramon Mantaras, Campus Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain, Prof Abdul Sattar, Griffith University, Australia, Prof Manuela M Veloso, Carnegie Mellon University, USA.
Over 300 delegates from over 10 countries, including USA, UK, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Spain on the various sessions were attended both in the area of Natural Language Processing and Artificial Intelligence (ICON 10 sessions; KBCS 15 sessions).
The following were the major keynote addresses:
Aligning Sentence Parts by Prof Martin Kay of Stanford University USA with Dr S Ramani, the architect of National Centre for Software Technology (NCST) and now with HP Labs chairing the session. Dr Kay explained the intricacy of natural language translation in a very simple and effective manner. Summing up the deliberation Dr S Ramani mentioned that Indian Researchers and Student community will benefit from the deliberations with international expert in the area of Natural Language Processing and Artificial Intelligence. Towards Artificial Creativity â Performing expressive music using case-based reasoning by Prof Ramon Lopez de Mantaras, Campus Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain. Text Mining for Biology â Experience and Research Activities of the GENIA group by Prof Jun-ichi Tsujii, University of Tokyo, Japan. Cooperation and Learning in Teams of Autonomous Robots by Prof Manuela M Veloso, CMU, USA. From Sentence to âImmediate Discourseâ: Annotation of Corpus for Discourse Connectives and to their arguments, together with their Semantics by Prof Aravind K Joshi. Intelligent Settlement of Constraints by Prof Abdul Sattar.
82 High Quality Contributed papers from various specialists around the globe were presented during the conference and 9 papers from various participants were exhibited in poster session. To encourage the student community a well designed Student Paper contest Student Paper Contest was held on 21 Dec 2004 and the students awarded in the Valedictory Function. An innovative NLP Tools Contest was also held and conducted during the conference to encourage researcher to test their skills in Information extraction on 21 Dec 2004. This year the theme of contest was âInformation Extraction and the Domain is field sportsâ. The winning team was honoured during the Valedictory Session by Mr Ajay Sawhney ,IAS.
Valedictory function of the twin conferences was held on Wednesday 22 Dec, 2004 with Mr Ajay Sawhney, IAS Special Secretary from Government of Andhra Pradesh presiding. Dr Om Vikas of Ministry of Communications & IT heading IT Initiatives in the area of HR gave the keynote address. Dr M Vidya Sagar Executive Director and Vice-President from TATA Consultancy Services gave the presidential address highlighting the current status of AI and NLP for the benefit of the delegates. Dr Sangal, Chairman of the ICON Programme Committee announced the awards to the student community and also announced that ICON 2005 will be held at Kanpur.
Dr Rajeev Sangal gave the overview of the twin conferences ICON â 2004 and KBCS â 2004 highlighting the various activities in IIIT, Hyderabad from 19 â 22 Dec, 2004. Maj Gen Dr R K Bagga proposed a vote of thanks and informed that IIIT Hyderabad, under guidance of Dr Rajeev Sangal has not only been hostfor these twin Conferences; but also has taken major research initiatives in the area of Natural Language Translation from English to Hindi, Telugu and Marathi. He also thanked all the sponsorers including Govt. of Andhra Pradesh, TCS, Satyam, HP Labs, Media Lab Asia, C-DAC, NISG, CIIL, Reliance Infocom and Govt. of India (Dept. of IT and S&T). Special thanks were given to our foreign delegates (over 30 participants) for their presence and effective contribution in the form of keynoted addresses, contributing papers and chairing the sessions. Maj Gen Dr R K Bagga informed that it is informally learned that the prestigious International Conference on AI (IJCAI) has been allotted to India and will be hosted in Hyderabad in year 2007 ,in all probabilities.