Professor Kon Mouzakis relishes the challenge of staying a step ahead of an increasingly fast-paced world.
At the intersection of technology and human interaction
There could be few more fluid job descriptions than to lead a team of researchers working at the intersection of technology and human interaction.
But for Professor Kon Mouzakis, Co-Director of Deakin University’s Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute (A²I²), the challenge of staying one step ahead of an increasingly fast-paced world is sustained by his team’s goal to improve the wellbeing of people in the community.
“From saving lives in the Emergency and Trauma Centre at The Alfred (Hospital) with our technology, to educating carers to understand the world of a person living with dementia and the many other projects we are involved in, my Institute is committed to making a difference in society,” says Prof. Mouzakis, who has worked for 30 years in academia, including 27 in translational research.
“If our research can begin by changing and improving just one life, then we have commenced our journey of making a difference to the world.”
Deakin gives “the ability to achieve our best work”
Prof. Mouzakis joined Deakin in 2016 following 26 years as an Associate Professor at Swinburne University of Technology.
“I chose Deakin because I knew its environment would give us the ability to flourish as an Institute and achieve our best work,” he says, adding a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to bring his entire team to Deakin sealed the deal.
More recently, his team at the Deakin Software and Technology Innovation Laboratory (DSTIL) combined with Alfred Deakin Professor Svetha Venkatesh’s team at the former Pattern Recognition and Data Analytics (PRaDA) Strategic Research Centre to form A²I², with research focused on human/computer interaction, interface design and complex decision support systems.
Keeping humans in the loop with AI
“My recent work has involved studying how the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) into these complex systems can improve our understanding of the complexity that we are all facing in this challenging world,” Prof. Mouzakis says.
“A main goal of this research is to address how to ensure we have humans-in-the-loop with AI in a way that provides better insights for decisions to be made.”
More than just life-saving potential
While the Institute’s work finds important uses in the development of life-saving healthcare systems, the potential applications for such cutting-edge research could extend to many facets of Australians’ everyday lives.
“If we can understand the problems being faced in health, education, aged care, cybersecurity and keeping Australians safe, we can build technology that will address all these domains,” Prof. Mouzakis says.
“To have the opportunity to work toward changing people’s lives with the research and technology that we develop across the whole Institute is a great privilege.”
Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute A²I²
We sat down with Kon to find out what A²I² does, the main projects the institute is working on, the areas of study for Higher degree by Research and what the institute hopes to achieve.
What is the Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute and what inspired you to become its Director?
The Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute (A²I²) transforms industries and improves lives by developing and implementing safe, effective uses of AI and exploring new frontiers in AI research. The Institute has a mission to build AI systems that benefit Australian industries and society, including critical areas such as health, security, manufacturing and aged care.
We pioneer methods and approaches for AI and machine learning solutions with high potential impact. Our interests cover machine learning, reinforcement learning, deep learning, optimisation and software engineering.
Previously, I was Director of the Deakin Software and Technology Innovation Laboratory (DSTIL). I was given an exciting opportunity to Co-Direct and bring two research centres together to form an applied AI institute, allowing the Institute to focus both on fundamental research and translational research.
What do you enjoy about being Co-Director and how do you balance that task with your own research?
Being Co-Director allows me to shape our future leaders in this area. This involves mentoring, educating and supporting their work that contributes to our vision of enhancing people’s lives. Solving complex problems that we face in today’s world requires facilitation of brilliant minds to come together.
Balancing research on top of work tasks has allowed me to collaborate with colleagues to enable further progression in this field. Applied research can only be engaging when we have the support of our industry partners and their willingness to explain the problems they are facing.
What do you think distinguishes A²I² from other AI research institutes?
A²I² is an applied AI institute with deep links to both academia and industry. We have a collection of academics, researchers and technical engineers all working collaboratively to solve the challenges that we are asked to investigate.
This puts our Institute in a unique position, as it not only examines the “why,” but also the “how” when solving problems.
A²I² is the largest applied AI institute in Victoria and one of the largest in Australia. Our staff span all experience levels with expertise in a diverse range of areas including: AI algorithms, data engineering, complex software systems, graphics programming, hardware engineering, technology development and deployment.
How do you see A²I² contributing to Deakin's strategic priorities? What are your priorities for the Institute?
Deakin’s ambition to innovate and excel in both education and research will generate ideas that transform lives and communities. A²I² is committed to this ambition and is in a unique position to fulfil the University’s strategic vision.
A priority of my Institute is to help establish Deakin as an internationally recognised leader in innovative fundamental and research translation applications. This focuses on new and emerging human-in-the-loop, AI-based software for data-oriented problems in several key domains.
What are some of the major projects the Institute is working on?
A team of A²I² researchers has been working with Dementia Australia for several years, using cutting-edge technology to improve care for dementia patients. An immersive VR experience, EDIE, allows carers and families to experience dementia through their own eyes. The latest step in this work has seen the development of an avatar patient called Ted, which has been launched in 2021.
Over several years, another team of A²I² researchers developed a Trauma Reception and Resuscitation System with The Alfred Hospital, the National Trauma Research Institute and the Transport Accident Commission. Now in operation, this system supports informed decision-making and reduces the errors of omission for severely injured trauma patients. The project has seen a 21% reduction in errors of omission, 30% reduction in blood transfusions, and significant reductions in the time spent in ICU at The Alfred.
As one final example, with Uniting AgeWell and the Transport Accident Commission, we have developed an Intelligent Internet of Things sensor system to enable retirees and people with acquired brain injuries to live independently in their own homes for as long as possible.
Higher Degree by Research
What disciplines are you looking for in your HDR students and how can prospective students engage with your Institute?
We are looking in the following disciplines:
- Computer Science
- Software Engineering
- Biomedical engineering
- Electrical/Electronic Engineering
- Mathematics/Statistics/Physical sciences with strong programming skills.
Prospective students can engage by visiting our website, visiting us in person and communicating with our researchers and staff to learn more about the research we do. We also encourage them to contact the academics they would like to work with to explore research and supervision opportunities.
How do HDR students contribute to the work the Institute is doing? Where do you see your current HDR students working in the future? How do you see them contributing to the field in future?
HDR students are major contributors to research outputs of the Institute. Under guidance from experienced supervisors, students will work on cutting-edge methodologies and technologies, finding new ways to solve current and future problems. The work will generate top-ranked publications, patents and new Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) systems.
Students are trained to be original knowledge producers and skilled investigators who have the ability to pursue a research career at academic and industry research labs as research scientists or join the global workforce as senior AI engineers and data scientists. The students are equipped with future-proof knowledge and skills to solve the most challenging problems faced by governments and private sectors.
We offer scholarships for prospective PhD students through the Deakin University Higher Degree by Research (HDR) program. We also consider self-funded PhD applicants.
The future of A²I²
What do you think will be some of the most exciting or ground-breaking uses of A²I²'s research in 10-20 years’ time?
We are involved in a number of exciting research projects and we’re looking forward to seeing the results of this work in years to come. The projects encompass advancements in automated decision-making, optimisations to support our environment and improving health and well-being.
Over the next five to ten years, the volume of information made available to the public will be very difficult for the human brain to comprehend. AI will be required to prepare and assist humans to make well-informed decisions.
During this time, we will continue to evolve the human-in-the-loop AI paradigm and help improve the wellbeing of those who are most vulnerable in our community. We are also exploring other health AI applications, such as using AI to improve the diagnosis of serious diseases. AI will transform the way we make decisions and what assistance we get in making those decisions, but the human will always remain in control.