Kevin Frans is a senior at high school who is causing quite a stir among top techies in the world of artificial intelligence (AI) at the moment. Almost two years ago now, Elon Musk founded the nonprofit research lab, OpenAI, and since then several research papers have been publicized because of it. Kevin Frans is one of those authors.
At the young age of just 15, Kevin trained his first neural net. It was the same kind of system that’s used today in many AI voice and face recognition systems. “I like how you can get computers to do things that previously you would think were impossible,” says Frans. One of Frans’ creations is in the form of an interactive webpage that colors in line drawings in the style of manga comics.
Frans joined the OpenAI team after tackling one of the lab’s problems that was in dire need of new ideas. Although he made some progress he got stuck so decided to email OpenAI research John Schulman for some help. Schulman said he had no idea he was conversing with a high school student. The two met later on when Frans was interviewed for an internship at OpenAI. Needless to say, Frans is now an intern at the company.
The problem that Frans was sent to work on first is one that’s holding back AI currently and that is how machines access what they’ve learned previously to tackle new problems. To go about solving that issue Frans created an algorithm that helped virtual legged robots which tasks (such as walking, or crawling) were linked to which limb movements.
“Kevin’s paper provides a fresh approach to the problem, and some results that go beyond anything demonstrated previously,” says Schulman. It’s quite rare to see someone as young as Frans make such contributions to AI and machine learning research. But Frans openly encourages others to do it too. “The best thing to do is go out and try it, make it yourself from your own hands,” he says.
Olga Russakovsky is a professor at Princeton who works on machine vision and she is part of a bigger project to get more high school students involved with improving AI systems. “AI is a field that’s going to revolutionize everything in our society, and we can’t have it be built by people from a homogenous group that doesn’t represent a whole society,” she says.