Qualitative Reasoning

Authored by: Kenneth Forbus

Computing Handbook

Print publication date:  May  2014
Online publication date:  May  2014

Print ISBN: 9781439898529
eBook ISBN: 9781439898536
Adobe ISBN:


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Qualitative reasoning is the area of artificial intelligence (AI) that creates representations for continuous aspects of the world, such as space, time, and quantity, which support reasoning with very little information. Typically, it has focused on scientific and engineering domains, hence its other common name, qualitative physics. It is motivated by two observations. First, people draw useful and subtle conclusions about the physical world without equations. In our daily lives, we figure out what is happening around us and how we can affect it, working with far less data, and less precise data, than would be required to use traditional, purely quantitative methods. Creating software for robots that operate in unconstrained environments and modeling human cognition require understanding how this can be done. Second, scientists and engineers appear to use qualitative reasoning when initially understanding a problem, when setting up more formal methods to solve particular problems, and when interpreting the results of quantitative simulations, calculations, or measurements. Thus, advances in qualitative reasoning should lead to the creation of more flexible software that can help engineers and scientists solve problems.

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