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In Memoriam, Nils Nilsson.

AAAI mourns the recent passing of AAAI past president and Fellow Nils Nilsson. Nilsson, the Kumagai Professor of Engineering, Emeritus, at Stanford University, died April 23 at his home in Medford, Oregon. He was 86. Nilsson is best known for his foundational work in robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning dating to the earliest days of the fields. He earned his PhD in electrical engineering at Stanford in 1958 and immediately began serving in the U.S. Air Force. After his discharge in 1961, he took a position at Stanford Research Institute, working on neural networks and statistical approaches to robotic problem-solving. He would eventually rise to lead SRI from 1980 to 1984. In 1985, Nilsson joined the Stanford faculty as chair of the Department of Computer Science, a role in which he served until 1990. Between 1966 and 1972, Nilsson co-directed the creation of an autonomous robot known affectionately as SHAKEY, after the way the top-heavy robot would shudder as it made its way about in stops and starts. He was noted for helping to design and write the algorithms that helped SHAKEY make decisions and plan the most efficient course, Stanford Research Institute Problem Solver (STRIPS) and A*, the intellectual progeny of which are still in use today.

AAAI held a Shakey Celebration at AAAI-15, including a panel with Nilsson, Peter Hart, and Ed Feigenbaum, commemorating the robot's seminal contribution to AI during the past fifty years. Shakey has also been immortalized as the name of the Oscarlike gold statuette presented to past winners of the AAAI Video Competition.

Nilsson authored or coauthored at least nine books, including The Quest for Artificial Intelligence: A History of Ideas and Achievements (Cambridge University Press, 2010) and Principles of Artificial Intelligence from Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, a publishing house he cofounded. He served on the editorial boards of the journal Artificial Intelligence and of the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research and as an editor of the Journal of the Association for Computing Machinery. In additional to AAAI Fellowship, Nilsson was also elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences. He was honored with a number of industry awards, including a Neural-Network Pioneer Award from IEEE, the Research Excellence Award from the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence and the AAAI Distinguished Service Award for lifetime achievement in 2005.

Caption: Nilsson Speaking at the AAAI-15 Shakey Celebration.

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Title Annotation:AAAI News: Summer News from the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence
Publication:AI Magazine
Article Type:Obituary
Date:Jun 22, 2019
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