Barney Pell

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Barney Pell
Born (1968-03-18) March 18, 1968 (age 54)
Alma mater
AwardsMarshall Scholar
Scientific career
FieldsComputer science
ThesisStrategy Generation and Evaluation for Meta-Game Playing
Doctoral advisorSteve Pulman
Other academic advisorsEmmanuel Rayner

Barney Pell (born March 18, 1968) is an American entrepreneur, angel investor and computer scientist. He was co-founder and CEO of Powerset, a pioneering natural language search startup, search strategist and architect for Microsoft's Bing search engine, a pioneer in the field of general game playing in artificial intelligence, and the architect of the first intelligent agent to fly onboard and control a spacecraft.[1] He was co-founder, Vice Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer of Moon Express; co-founder and chairman of LocoMobi; and Associate Founder of Singularity University.



Pell received his Bachelor of Science degree in symbolic systems from Stanford University in 1989, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa and was a National Merit Scholar. Pell earned a PhD in computer science from Cambridge University in 1993, supervised by Stephen Pulman, where he was a Marshall Scholar.[2][3]


Pell's research is focused on basic problems in the study of intelligence, computer game playing, machine learning, natural language processing, autonomous robotics, and web search. Barney Pell has published over 30 technical papers on topics related to information retrieval, knowledge management, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and scheduling systems.[4]

In computer game playing and machine learning, he was a pioneer in the field of General Game Playing, and created programs to generate the rules of chess-like games and programs to play individual games directly from the rules without human assistance.[5] He also did early work on machine learning in the game of Go and on an architecture for pragmatic reasoning for bidding in the game of Bridge.

In natural language processing, he was a scientist in the Artificial Intelligence Center at SRI International, where we worked on the Core Language Engine.[6]

Barney Pell was the Technical Area Manager of the Collaborative and Assistant Systems area within the Computational Sciences Division (now the Intelligent Systems Division) at NASA Ames Research Center, where he oversaw a staff of 80 scientists working on information retrieval, search, knowledge management, machine learning, semantic technology, human centered systems, collaboration technology, adaptive user interfaces, human robot interaction, and other areas of artificial intelligence. From 1993 to 1998, Barney Pell worked as a Principal Investigator and Senior Computer Scientist at NASA Ames, where he conducted advanced research and development of autonomous control software for NASA's deep space missions. He was the Architect for the Deep Space One Remote Agent Experiment and the Project Lead for the Executive component of the Remote Agent Experiment, the first intelligent agent to fly onboard and control a spacecraft.[1]


Pell is an entrepreneur who has founded or co-founded several business ventures, including Powerset, Moon Express, and LocoMobi.

He was the founder and CEO of Powerset, a San Francisco startup company that built a search engine based on natural language processing technology originally developed at XEROX PARC.[7] On May 11, 2008, the company unveiled a tool for searching a fixed subset of Wikipedia using conversational phrases rather than keywords.[8] On July 1, 2008, Microsoft signed an agreement to acquire Powerset for an estimated $100 million.[9] Powerset became a part of Microsoft's search engine, Bing.[10]

From 2008 until August 2011, Pell served as Partner, Search Strategist, and Evangelist for Microsoft's search engine, Bing and as Head of Bing's Local and Mobile Search teams.

Prior to joining Powerset, Pell was an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Mayfield Fund, a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley.[11]

Pell is also a founder of Moon Express, Inc., a U.S. company awarded a $10M commercial lunar contract by NASA and a competitor in the Google Lunar X PRIZE.[12]

Pell was also co-founder and chairman of LocoMobi, Inc., a U.S. company developing mobile, software and hardware technology solutions for the parking industry.[13] LocoMobi was winner of the Tie50 Award in 2014.[14]

Pell is also an associate founder of Singularity University[15] and a Machine Learning Fellow at the Creative Destruction Lab at the Rotman School of Management[16]

From 1998 to 2000, Pell served as chief strategist and vice president of business development at (acquired by Red Herring in March, 2000). From 2000 to 2002, Pell was Chief Strategist and Vice President of Business Development for Whizbang Labs.[17]

Pell has been an angel investor and advisor to numerous startup companies, including (acquired by Google), Aardvark (acquired by Google), Appjet (acquired by Google), Jibe Mobile (acquired by Google), Movity (acquired by Trulia), QuestBridge, BrandYourself, CrowdFlower (acquired by Appen), and Linked In.[18][19]

Views and predictions[edit]

Pell has expressed views and predictions regarding technological advancements in coming years. He believes that humans will soon have "brain-machine interfaces that will let people interact with each other as if they had 'hangouts' in their mind."[20] Pell predicts these interfaces to become available within 20 to 30 years. Pell also predicts advancements in bodily augmentation, such as "even-better-than-human prosthetics and high-quality tissue engineering within 10 years."[20]

Pell believes that with advancements in space exploration technology the moon will soon be a commercially viable resource for material such as platinum and water.[21]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In 1986, Pell was awarded a National Merit Scholarship. In 1989, Pell was awarded a Marshall Scholarship.[2] In 1989, Pell was elected Phi Beta Kappa. In 1997, Pell was part of the team award a NASA Software of the Year Award for the Deep Space 1 Remote Agent.[1]


  1. ^ a b c "Remote Agent". NASA. Archived from the original on 31 March 2016. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  2. ^ a b "EDUCATION; Marshall Scholars Named". New York Times. December 21, 1988. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  3. ^ "Barney Pell's Weblog". Archived from the original on 2008-02-28. Retrieved 2008-02-16.
  4. ^ "Barney Pell DBLP". Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  5. ^ "Metagame and General Game Playing". Metagame and General Game Playing. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  6. ^ Alshawi, Hiyan; van Eijck, Jan (1989). "Logical Forms In The Core Language Engine". Proceedings of the 27th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics. ACL. pp. 25–32. CiteSeerX
  7. ^ Helft, Miguel (2007-01-01). "In Silicon Valley, the Race Is On to Trump Google". The New York Times.
  8. ^ Powerset Debuts With Search of Wikipedia - Retrieved on 2013-07-21.
  9. ^ Marshall, Matt (June 26, 2008). "Microsoft to buy semantic search engine Powerset for $100M plus". VentureBeat. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  10. ^ Girdwood, Andrew. "Bing has /semhtml/ pages and being indexed by Google". Andrew Girdwood. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  11. ^ "Powerset Founders". Archived from the original on 2007-10-27. Retrieved 2008-02-16.
  12. ^ "MoonEx aims to scour moon for rare materials". Los Angeles Times. 2011-04-08. Retrieved 2011-04-10.
  13. ^ "LocoMobi Leadership". LocoMobi. Archived from the original on 6 April 2016. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  14. ^ "TiE50 Awards Program Recognizing World's Most Enterprising Technology Startups". Tie50. TIE (The Indus Entrepreneurs). Archived from the original on 24 March 2016. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  15. ^ "Founders". Singularity University. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  16. ^ "Creative Destruction Lab". Creative Destruction Lab. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  17. ^ "Next Generation Search: the hope, the hype & the chutzpah". VLAB. Archived from the original on 9 April 2016. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  18. ^ "Barney Pell". LinkedIn. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  19. ^ "Barney Pell". Angelist. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  20. ^ a b Pell, Barney (1 May 2014). "Transcending Artificial Intelligence: Part 1". Recode.
  21. ^ "Barney Pell on the Value of the Moon (CNET)". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21.