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Science Museum exhibition introduces artificial intelligence

What does artificial intelligence (AI) mean to you? Some people would conjure up images of intelligent robots or artificial beings that can walk around, interact and converse with human beings. Having been developed for more than 50 years, AI is now integrated into many things that we use in our daily life, such as web-based software, search engines, electronic devices and household appliances.

From today (June 13) to October 19, the Hong Kong Science Museum will present a new exhibition, “Artificial Intelligence and Railway Engineering Works Scheduling”, to illustrate the technology in depth. With the support of the Department of Computer Science, City University of Hong Kong, the exhibition provides a case study of how AI is applied to help the MTR (MTR Corporation Limited) schedule railway engineering works.

As one of the busiest mass transit systems in the world, the MTR must ensure that all adequate and necessary engineering and maintenance works are done in a timely manner. The planning and scheduling of these engineering works for the whole MTR railway system is the responsibility of the Engineering Works and Traffic Information Management System (ETMS).

AI engines are widely used in the ETMS. Firstly, the expert system automatically checks if a request for undertaking engineering or maintenance work is logically valid, and if resources are available without conflicting with any confirmed jobs.

Secondly, the expert system is used with genetic algorithms to generate a weekly work plan for human planners to review. With AI engines, the system can work out an optimal but feasible work plan by combining jobs intelligently in compliance with all rules, including safety rules, regulations and guidelines.

Thirdly, the AI engine can automatically resolve conflicts arising from changes and new requirements and propose a new schedule for further approval by human planners. Lastly, the AI engine is used for long-term quarterly planning.

ETMS streamlines the planning procedures and enhances the efficiency of engineering and maintenance works of the MTR. The system can also work out an optimised schedule that ensures safety and maximises resource utilisation. As a result, it helps ensure that passengers have a safe, efficient and reliable journey. The system has won many awards including the "Innovative Applications of AI Award" from the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence in the USA, the “Asia Pacific Information Communications Technology Award” and the “IT Excellence Award” from the Hong Kong Computer Society.

In conjunction with the exhibition, a video - "The Future of Robots" - will also be screened. A computer set up on site will provide exhibition-goers with a list of relevant websites.

In addition, a lecture, “Artificial Intelligence and Its Applications in Hong Kong”, will be held on August 23 at 2.30pm by Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science, Dr Andy Chun. Conducted in Cantonese, admission to this lecture is free on a first-come-first-served basis.

The Science Museum is located at 2 Science Museum Road, Tsim Sha Tsui East. It opens from 1pm to 9pm from Monday to Wednesday and on Fridays, and from 10am to 9pm on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. It is closed on Thursdays (except public holidays). Admission is $25 with half-price concession for full-time students, people with disabilities and senior citizens aged 60 or above. Admission is free on Wednesdays.

For enquiries, call 2732 3232 or visit the Science Museum's website at .

Ends/Friday, June 13, 2008

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