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Automated User-Centered Reasoning and Acquisition System

AURA  Principal Investigator:  Vinay K Chaudhri

Mailing address:
AI Center
SRI International
333 Ravenswood Avenue
Menlo Park, CA 94025-3493

AIC Program:  Ontology Management Group

   Project Description

Digital Aristotle is an application that can understand and reason over a growing number of scientific disciplines, and explain its knowledge in a user and domain appropriate manner. To contribute to this goal, SRI International (SRI) has developed an Automated User-centered Reasoning and Acquisition System (AURA) to allow subject matter experts (SMEs), for example, biologists, physicists, and chemists, and scientific educators to formulate knowledge and questions to query that knowledge, with an ever-decreasing reliance on knowledge engineers.

The innovative aspects of this project are as follows.

Module-centered knowledge acquisition: AURA features a novel document-centric knowledge acquisition interface. This interface is an application of the concept of graphical assembly of knowledge from components and is based on the hypothesis that circumscribed knowledge fragments, in particular paragraphs from a textbook, can indeed be formulated by subject matter experts in a modular fashion using self-contained and well-packaged components. If successful, this will substantially reduce the cost of knowledge formation as compared to what we saw during Halo Pilot Phase. The success of this hypothesis will also set the stage for the large scale construction of a knowledge base that is central for realizing the dream of Digital Aristotle.

Natural Query Communication: Human domain knowledge is naturally expressed in a variety of forms, e.g., graphs, text, and diagrams, in sharp contrast to the cryptic and rigid input formalisms which a machine typically requires. To begin to bridge this gap, AURA features an interface for question-asking questions based on controlled English.

Usability design by a marriage of technology, behavioral science, and fine arts design techniques: AURA incorporates the informed intuition of professional designers steeped in the knowledge of both SMEs and the KR developers on the team. AURA uses computational models of the skilled user to design efficient interfaces for the SMEs who are expected to encode vast amounts of knowledge, even before system prototypes are available for user testing.

The AURA system is licensed and distributed by Vulcan Inc. For more information on obtaining a license and a copy of the software, please contact Vulcan at ( or SRI at (aura@SRI.COM).

AURA project concluded with a knowledge engineering effort to capture a significant fraction of a Biology textbook and embed the resulting knowledge base into an Intelligent Electronic Textbook reader that could be used by teachers and students.


Name Title E-mail
Dinesh, Nikhil Computer Scientist
Heymans, Stijn Computer Scientist
Overholtzer, Adam Interaction Designer
Pacheco, John Research Engineer
Spaulding, Aaron Computer Scientist
Tien, Jing Alumnus
Wessel, Michael A Computer Scientist
Wilkins, David E Senior Computer Scientist
Yorke-Smith, Neil Computer Scientist

AURA: Automated User-Centered Reasoning and Acquisition System
The AURA system enables graduate students in Physics, Chemistry, and Biology to author knowledge from a science textbook, and support high school students to formulate questions against that knowledge to obtain answers.


Showing most recent 5 out of 56  [View All]

  • Vinay K. Chaudhri. Achieving Intelligence using Prototypes, Composition and Analogy, in Proceedings of the AAAI-2015 Conference, 2015.  [PDF, Details]

  • Vinay K. Chaudhri and Daniela Inclezan. Representing States in a Biology Textbook, in Proceedings of the AAAI Spring Symposium on Commonsense Reasoning (Commonsense 2015), 2015.  [PDF, Details]

  • Vinay K. Chaudhri. Abstraction and Perspective in Question Answering, in Proceedings of the AAAI-2015 Workshop on Beyond the Turing Test, 2015.  [PDF, Details]

  • Vinay K. Chaudhri, Peter E. Clark, Adam Overholtzer, and Aaron Spaulding. Question Generation from a Knowledge Base, in 19th International Conference on Knowledge Engineering and Knowledge Management (EKAW), 2014.  [PDF, Details]

  • Vinay K. Chaudhri and Nikhil Dinesh and Stijn Heymans. Conceptual Models of Energy Transfer and Regulation, in In the Proceedings of International Conference on Formal Ontologies in Information Systems, 2014.  [PDF, Details]

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