A History of AI Research and Development in Thailand: Three Periods, Three Directions

By Kawtrakul, Asanee; Praneetpolgrang, Prasong | AI Magazine, Summer 2014 | Go to article overview

A History of AI Research and Development in Thailand: Three Periods, Three Directions


Kawtrakul, Asanee, Praneetpolgrang, Prasong, AI Magazine


Thailand, a country of 65 million people, has had an active AI community for almost three decades. With limited research funding (less than 1 percent of GDP), AI researchers have had to maintain a focus on producing concrete results. They have set clear research goals to ensure that smart or intelligent systems are developed and applied to help reduce costs, improve efficiency, and increase productivity in integrated public services.

The Pioneering Period: 1988-1999

Artificial intelligence (AI) was first taught in Thailand at government universities more than 30 years ago. Thai-language lecture notes on artificial intelligence (AI) were used in 1975 for teaching an AI course at a university. In 1992 the first AI laboratory was established at the Department of Computer Engineering, Kasetsart University. Research on Thai language processing and expert systems was then concentrated on at the laboratory. King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi also set up its own AI center--as a loosely affiliated group.

Yuen Poovarawan was the pioneer in computer language processing of the Thai language. Since 1990 he has produced a wide range of well-recognized pieces of work, including a Thai text editor, a Thai thesaurus, e-dictionary, a morphological analysis tool, and the first book on natural language processing (NLP) in Thai. The first NLP laboratory, called the NAiST Lab, was founded at the Department of Computer Engineering, Kasetsart University, formerly a subdivision of the first AI laboratory. It is now expanded to the Center of Excellence, supported by National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC), and focuses on merging together two types of technology: knowledge engineering and language engineering, thus leading to the setting up of the Center of Excellence, called UKNOW, at Kasetsart University.

The first national-level research project in Thailand focused on machine translation. From 1988 to 1991 this project included the Center of the International Cooperation for Computerization of Japan (CICC), NECTEC, and Thailand's Chulalongkorn University, Kasetsart University, King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Lad Krabang, King Mongkut's Institute of Technology North Bangkok, and Kriek University. CICC and NECTEC are very important cores in developing NLP technology in Thailand.

In 1992 and again in 1999 (Kijsirikul and Theer amunkong 1999), questionnaire surveys of NECTEC and CICC about AI technological development, which revealed that the national research plan (1997-2001) did not clearly encourage the development of in-depth research in AI. As a result, the National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC) put together research development plans in Al-related fields, for example, natural language processing, expert systems, and intelligent image processing. Rapidly, AI research by universities and major research organizations in Thailand grew to cover speech processing, NLP, expert systems, image processing, machine learning, robotics and other mechanical instruments, intelligent computer-aided instruction (Intelligent CAI), intelligent information retrieval, information extraction and summarization, data mining and knowledge engineering, intelligent control systems, and forecasting systems. Figure 1 shows the most popular areas as of 1999. In those early days, AI researchers mainly graduated from Edinburgh, Japan, and the USA. They obtained funding from the National Research Council of Thailand (NRCT) and the National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC) of the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA).

In NLP and speech processing, AI research focused on machine translation, word segmentation, spell and style checking, speech recognition, speech synthesis, and speaker identification. Examples of AI research in expert systems were agricultural expert systems, student consulting systems for registration processing, and environmental expert systems. …

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