USC Launches $1 Billion+ Computing Initiative Including AI, AR, and VR

May 9, 2023 The president of the University of Southern California (USC) recently announced a more than $1 billion initiative for computer science research and education across all disciplines, with an emphasis on artificial intelligence, machine learning and science data, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), robotics, games and blockchain.

Titled Frontiers of Computing, the announcement marks the largest comprehensive academic initiative in the university’s history. The initiative will integrate computer science across education and research to enhance digital literacy for all students as the university aims to maintain its leadership as the leading provider of technology professionals.

Virtual reality is among several components of the new USC Frontiers of Computing initiative which represents a $1 billion investment in computing at USC. The Light Stage at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies is used for the development of new VR tools to help with mental health, advanced filming and cinematic arts, as well as games and game design (Photo/Chris Shinn).

With a $260 million grant from the Lord Foundation of California, USC said the Frontiers of Computing initiative encompasses a multi-pronged effort to push the boundaries of computing into a new era and includes:

  • A new school: The USC School of Advanced Computing will be housed in a seven-story, 116,000-square-foot facility, the Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg Human-Centered Computation Hall. The building, currently under construction, will formally open in the fall of 2024.
  • Recruitment: In the first three years, 30 new faculty members who are leaders in computer science and computer science-based research will be hired, with USC aiming to hire 60 additional faculty and staff by 2030. USC noted that the new members of the faculty will retain positions at multiple schools at USC in recognition that computational methods, particularly AI, are transforming the way people live and work.
  • Economic impact: USC Frontiers of Computing will help strengthen the university’s influence on technology in various industries and expand its presence in Silicon Beach on the West Side of Los Angeles, which is already home to two of USC’s technology incubators; the Institute of Information Sciences and the Institute for Creative Technologies. USC currently has a $9 billion economic footprint in the Los Angeles area, according to a 2017 study, and its impact is expanding to the East Coast, with the new USC Capital Campus in Washington, D.C.
  • Education: The initiative will broadly integrate computer science across multiple disciplines and academic programs. USC aims to prepare students for a more technology-intensive world of work, spur new technological advances, and shape responsible policies through new programs and course offerings, as well as through experiential education.
  • Ethics: According to Ishwar K. Puri, senior vice president for research and innovation, USC is instilling a culture of accountability and conscience among students, faculty and its wider community through academic programs and research that it hopes will influence the application, development , politics and research. The new Center for Generative AI and Society is prominent within the initiative’s ethics endeavor. The newly opened center brings together experts from across the university to tackle tough discussions about ethics, accountability, and generative AI.

Commenting on the announcement, USC President Carol L. Folt said, “I want every student who enters our programs, whether they are in science, business, humanities, or the arts, to have a strong foundation in technology and work ethic they do. Folt added, “We will integrate digital literacy across disciplines to create responsible leaders for the workforce of the future.”

According to USC, university leaders began developing Frontiers of Computing three years ago, before the recent rise of artificial intelligence and generative AI.

USC is already a leading provider of tech talent to the U.S. More than 1,300 students a year graduate with bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D.s in computer science, according to the university.

For more information on the Frontiers of Computing initiative at USC, click Here.

Image credit: University of Southern California / Chris Shinn

Sam Sprigg

Sam is the founder and managing editor of Auganix. With a background in research and report writing, he has covered XR industry news for the past five years.

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