Prof. Gal Kaminka: Only He Who Sees the Invisible Can Do the Impossible
Prof. Gal Kaminka studies artificial intelligence at the Department of Computer Science at BIU. He has won numerous awards and professional acclaims, such as the Landau Prize for the Arts and Sciences, for his excellent work in advancing the science of robotics.
This distinguished award, and a range of other international acclaims, position Prof. Kaminka at the forefront of AI robotics research. Kaminka’s research is based on AI (artificial intelligence) theories, incorporating ideas from other disciplines such as computer science and social and cognitive psychology.
In the past few years, Prof. Kaminka and his students have developed a range of innovative research interests, focusing on the different assignments dictated to the robot teams. They focus on such missions as robot patrolling, identifying enemy agents, resolving security and military issues, and more.
Kaminka’s robots are also successful athletes. Along with Dr. Eli Kolberg, they created the first Israeli robot team to take part in the RoboCup Games, the robotic soccer “Olympics”. This project ranked Israel among the top 16 robot teams in the world.
Putting a Man on the Moon
Kaminka takes pride in that his and his colleagues research subjects can be used by the industry, and he gives the example of the robots already patrolling the borders today (instead of human soldiers), or the startup CogniTeam, specializing in autonomy control for robotics and interactive simulations. “This startup’s management team were all students in our labs here at BIU, and they use the knowledge they acquired here to develop their technologies.” That said, he feels that the main goal of his research to always improve and enhance his knowledge and applicable capabilities, rather than achieving a specific applicable task. “When the Americans wanted to put a man on the moon, their main objective wasn’t necessarily the symbolic ability to stick their flag on the land of the moon. Reaching the moon was, in fact, a means to an end, which made them enhance and perfect existing knowledge and develop new technologies, to enable this trip as well as many other great uses.”
Kaminka says his “flagship” research project focuses on teaching social skills to his robots. “Up until now the robots were mere machines, fulfilling their designated tasks, and working together just towards completing those tasks. For a while now I have been working on “teaching” them to work generally as a team, not just fulfil specific tasks.”
Envisioning the impossible
Prof. Kaminka’s personal motto is a phrase he read 20 years ago on a teabag in Chinatown, San Francisco: “Only he who sees the invisible can do the impossible”. Kaminka feels that the trick is to understand that even the invisible is visible. “It’s the only way to break boundaries and make new discoveries,” he says.
Prof. Kaminka, who lives in Kfar Saba with his wife and three kids, admits that robots are his main interest, both at work and at home. “I’m the happiest man alive, for being able to work at a job that is both my profession and my hobby. Outside my family, robots are my life. I just can’t believe I’m being paid to do exactly what I love.”