Valley explores role of AI across variety of industries

YOUNGSTOWN — Groups throughout the Mahoning Valley are preparing to take advantage of the ever-growing world of artificial intelligence.

Recently, local journalism and communications professionals with the Youngstown Press Club heard from Nikita Roy, a data scientist, journalist and Harvard-recognized AI futurist, regarding how new technology can impact local newsrooms.

Widely, the use of AI in journalism is looked down upon. Most notoriously, there was much negative reaction to “Sports Illustrated” magazine seemingly using AI-generated authors for stories posted to its website, as reported by Futurism.

But Roy painted a less dreary picture, suggesting that AI can be used to benefit local news.

“I think AI, especially generative AI, is going to be a huge thing for local newsrooms,” she said. “I’m seeing local newsrooms actually being great pioneers for how to use AI.”

Roy said the most prominent area in which she has seen AI used in journalism is in generation of data for search engine optimization and headlines. She also pointed to the University of Michigan’s radio station that she said has created an AI database that automatically transcribes local public meetings to provide more information to journalists.

“If you’re a beat reporter reporting on housing, it instantly gives you housing alerts if it was discussed in the city council meeting and it points you to exactly where that discussion happened so you have that information,” Roy said. “It’s giving you the ability, as a reporter, to be able to find more stories, to be able to be in more places than was possible before.”

Whether it be for transcribing meeting audio, summarizing legal documents or developing different types of headlines, Roy said the newsrooms that take advantage of AI will have an edge.

She said the use of AI technology such as databases like ChatGPT is not a trend. She said it is “here to stay.”

“This is the future of the information ecosystem,” Roy said. “Tech companies are becoming like news companies and the only way for news companies to stay is by being AI-first, adopting AI, thinking about AI and thinking about it responsibly and ethically.”

While Roy focused on the impacts of AI on journalism, she acknowledged that many workplaces over a variety of fields are being impacted by the evolving technology.


Andy Morgan, a research scientist from Boston Dynamics, studies the world of robot manipulation, exploring how robots can perform fine motor skills.

Morgan is a 2013 graduate of Mathews High School in Vienna. He went on to study at Youngstown State University, where he was part of the Sokolov Honors College. He later attended the prestigious Yale GRAB Lab, where he completed his Ph.D. in March 2023.

“I was always interested in this,” Morgan said. “Certainly in high school I was always tinkering in the garage. My father was a mechanical engineer, I was always into computer science in general.”

Earlier this month, Morgan spoke to a group of students in the Mathews cafeteria about his work with Boston Dynamics and more specifically, the company’s four-legged, “agile mobile” robot called Spot.

During a presentation, Morgan engaged Spot with a remote controller, much like one would use with a video game console. Through Morgan, Spot walked around, rolled over and picked up objects with an attached arm.

According to the Boston Dynamics website, Spot is “easy to use and intuitive to learn, making it quick to deploy for both manual operations and autonomous missions.”

Morgan said Spot robots are used across the world for serious tasks. One example he used is when the robots are deployed into factories.

“Their typical applications at this point are working in factories that are generally noisy, dirty, maybe dangerous, where they can autonomously walk around the factory floor, sort of monitor different parts of the factory whether it is temperature bearings or gauges and measure those and actually log it into a system so they can continue to monitor the state of that factory,” he said.

In 2021, Boston Dynamics was acquired by Hyundai Motor Group. Morgan said car dealers who make advancements into the world of robotics likely draw a comparison between the current demand for cars and the future demand for technology like Spot.

“Generally speaking, we’re running out of a work force in the United States to do a lot of the manufacturing jobs that politicians have promised to bring back to the United States,” Morgan said. “Because of that promise, we don’t have people to do the jobs that humans used to do 40 years ago. A lot of the car companies see a need for moving into the future and being able to do some of those jobs that they can’t fill with humans.”

AI in education

Outside of the workforce, AI has impacted education as well.

Joe Palardy, a professor in the economics department at Youngstown State University, is part of the leadership team of the college’s AI committee.

As of now, Palardy said his part of the committee is working on developing a “set of guiding principles” for the university regarding AI use. He said topics discussed thus far include keeping learning human-centered, making sure those at the university understand potential biases involved with AI technology, ethical use and academic integrity.

“We also have to recognize that things are changing and we have to adapt to how things change,” Palardy said. “We need to pay attention to that and promote generative AI literacy.”

Palardy said the committee does not form specific university policies, but rather it aims to inform them.

“One of the things that we found that we needed to do was to take a step back and say, ‘OK, why do we have this policy, why do we have that policy,'” he said. “Let’s come up with a set of principles first that will inform policy.”

Have an interesting story? Contact Mason Cole by email at mcole@tribtoday.com. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @masoncoletrib


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today