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An annotated sign inside Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science in Pittsburgh. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science, already named the country’s top computer science graduate program for artificial intelligence, doubled down on AI this morning with the announcement of what’s believed to be the first undergraduate degree in artificial intelligence from a U.S. university.

Andrew Moore, head of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University. (CMU Photo)

“Specialists in artificial intelligence have never been more important, in shorter supply or in greater demand by employers,” said Andrew Moore, dean of the School of Computer Science, in a statement this morning. “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.”

GeekWire first heard rumblings about the possibility of the degree during our month in Pittsburgh earlier this year, and it was approved by the university this week.

The announcement comes as big tech companies including Microsoft, Google and Facebook expand their work in artificial intelligence, illustrating the demand for AI experts but also encroaching on universities and non-profits by hiring some of their top computer science professors. The social networking giant is establishing new Facebook AI Research Labs (FAIR) labs in Seattle and Pittsburgh as part of its AI initiatives.

The new degree program is slated to launch in the fall of 2018, focusing on areas including computer science, math, statistics, computational modeling, machine learning and symbolic computation, along with courses in ethics and social responsibility and the ability for students to take part in independent study programs focused on societal impact in areas such as healthcare, transportation and education, according to the degree description.

Carnegie Mellon has a long history in artificial intelligence, dating back to 1956 when CMU computer scientists wrote the first AI computer program, as noted by Aaron Aupperlee of the Tribune-Review in Pittsburgh.

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