What Are a Few AI Research Labs on the West Coast? What Are a Few AI Research Labs on the West Coast?
Artificial Intelligence is still a nascent technology; much of the groundbreaking work moving the industry forward is done inside AI research... What Are a Few AI Research Labs on the West Coast?

Artificial Intelligence is still a nascent technology; much of the groundbreaking work moving the industry forward is done inside AI research labs. It’s often from those labs that open source projects are started. 

Institutes like Open AI, NASA’s JPL, Google Deepmind, MIT CSAIL, BAIR, The Turing Institute, and Max Planck – to name just a handful – are presenting at ODSC in 2019, helping us bring our community to the leading edge of AI. To learn more about the labs’ role at ODSC, visit ODSC West

Since our next conference is in San Francisco, we’re looking west at a few exciting research labs in the area that are participating in ODSC this year.

[Related: The Best Machine Learning Research of June 2019]

Uber AI Labs

Uber’s AI team focuses on machine learning and how it can be applied not just to their own business, but the data science and AI community as a whole. 

Their initiatives tend to revolve around their business as expected. For one, they do a lot with computer vision and visual data. In the same vein, they’re advancing the use of sensors to improve features like crash detection, location accuracy, and physical technology like phone mounts to help the drivers be safer.

Uber open-sourced Ludwig, a deep learning toolbox, and various other tools as seen on their Github.

Berkeley Artificial Intelligence Research (BAIR)

Berkeley is known as one of the best higher education institutions for technology, AI, and data science. This lab has an incredible roster of both students and professors, such as Pieter Abbeel, Dawn Song, and many more.

Though Berkeley’s areas of research are far-reaching, a few of their primary endeavors include computer vision, ML, NLP, robotics, human-compatible AI, multimodal deep learning, and more. One of their most well-known open-source projects is the Caffe deep learning framework. You can follow their blog for helpful tutorials, news, and guides.


Even right off the bat, I love their mission statement, “OpenAI’s mission is to ensure that artificial general intelligence benefits all of humanity.”

What does that mean exactly? Cofounded by Elon Musk and Sam Altman, OpenAI goes beyond just creating technology and AI algorithms – they’re also working on safety, policy, research, and more. They offer many free, open-source Python-specific tools like rllab, PixelCNN, and various papers.

OpenAI made rounds in the news not long ago when it defeated world champion DOTA 2 players in real-time and in front of an audience. OpenAI also created GPT-2, an AI that can write text like articles, fake quotes, and statistics. Also, not long ago Microsoft invested a hefty sum to improve the capabilities of their Azure service with the goal of vastly improving its capabilities in building AI technologies.

USC Information Sciences Institute

USC’s ISI is a world leader in research and development of advanced information processing, computer, and communications technologies. Their work ranges from theoretical basic research, such as core engineering and computer science discovery, to applied research and development, such as design and modeling of innovative prototypes, and devices.

Deepfakes have been making the news in recent months as a major concern of AI, especially with the doctored videos of political figures such as Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi. Many AI labs have been working on ways to combat this concern, and ISI created a tool that can identify deepfakes with roughly 96% accuracy

USC Center for AI in Society

USC’s CAIS mission revolves around data science and AI for good, meant to share ideas about how AI can be used to tackle the most difficult societal problems. Some of their focuses include ending homelessness, fighting substance abuse, preventing suicide, improving access to health care, social responses to global climate change, reducing gang violence, and protecting wildlife.

To date, they’ve already made progress in reducing military suicides, environmental conservation, creating better eating habits, and alcohol abuse prevention. Their research into protecting endangered species with predictive AI made rounds in AI circles not long ago. The model crunches massive amounts of data and leverages machine learning to suggest the most effective patrol routes. More accurate than human intuition, the software employs mathematical modeling and game theory.

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA JPL’s Artificial Intelligence Group (AIG) performs basic research in the areas of artificial intelligence planning and scheduling, with applications to science analysis, spacecraft commanding, deep space network operations, and space transportation systems.

Much of their research work is available online, and heavily revolves around case studies, examples, and demos of various AI initiatives. A few standout, recent research projects include “Enabling Limited Resource-Bounded Disjunction in Scheduling” and “Energy-Aware Data Routing for Disruption Tolerant Networks in Planetary Cave Exploration.”


While not situated in California, it’s worth noting MIT’s Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) just for its prominence in the field of data science. CSAIL is responsible for countless contributions to AI, seemingly making headlines every day for their novel research and unique AI applications.

Recently, they created what’s being called a new probabilistic programming language, “Gen.” Users write models and algorithms from multiple fields where AI techniques are applied – such as computer vision, robotics, and statistics – without having to deal with equations or manually write high-performance code. 

Also – have you heard that MIT Press and the Harvard Data Science Initiative launched the Harvard Data Science Review? It’s an amazing collaboration between two academic leaders. The open access journal will promote the latest research, educational resources, and commentary from leading minds in data science. Stay tuned!


Walmart didn’t become an international retail leader by chance. There are plenty of reasons why it’s so successful, and one of the reasons is thanks to WalmartLabs, a research center designed to improve the customer experience both in-store and online. They’re actively contributing to the open-source community with tools such as OneOps and Test Armada, and even detail various case studies to walk you through some examples of AI in practice.

[Related: Best Deep Learning Research of 2019 So Far]

While all of these research groups have much available online, nothing beats hearing from these leading researchers in-person! Be sure to check out the ODSC West research track this October 29-November 1 in San Francisco, CA. The speakers represent all of the labs listed above, and will dive deeper into some of their recent, on-going, or future research. Register now for 50% off tickets before prices go back up soon.

Alex Landa, ODSC

Alex drinks a lot of coffee and sometimes writes stuff. Connect with him on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexander-landa-a0889857/