Carnegie Mellon offers undergrad degree in artificial intelligence

The university says it's to address the increasing need for specialists in the field.

Carnegie Mellon has announced one of the first* AI-focused undergraduate degrees in the US to address the increasing demand for specialists in the field. Tech giants like Google have been ramping up their artificial intelligence efforts in recent years, since they've become integral in the development of machine learning techniques used for their products. Mountain View, for instance, recently showed off a talking AI assistant so human-like that the company had to design a feature to make sure it identifies itself as a robotic assistant before speaking. The university is perhaps the best institution to offer an undergrad degree in AI, considering it ranked first in a recent study of the top AI graduate programs in the country.

The new undergrad offering will be part of Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science. Students will still have to be admitted as part of the CS program and will only be able to choose whether to major in artificial intelligence in their second year. Computer Science dean Andrew Moore said in a statement:

"Specialists in artificial intelligence have never been more important, in shorter supply or in greater demand by employers. Carnegie Mellon has an unmatched depth of expertise in AI, making us uniquely qualified to address this need for graduates who understand how the power of AI can be leveraged to help people."

Reid Simmons, the new AI program director, explained that the degree will focus "on how complex inputs -- such as vision, language and huge databases -- are used to make decisions or enhance human capabilities." However, it will also emphasize ethics and social responsibility to encourage students to use AI for social good, such as improving healthcare and transportation.

The undergrad degree will launch this fall and will be offered as an option to incoming second- and third-year students. Anyone interested will have to face stiff competition, though: the university will only accept 100 students overall into the program.

*Update: We were told that the Milwaukee School of Engineering announced a Computer Science degree focused on artificial intelligence before Carnegie Mellon did. Both institutions' new programs will launch this fall, so you know which schools to look at if you want to major in AI.