If you are looking for an answer to the question What is Artificial Intelligence? and you only have a minute, then here's the definition the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence offers on its home page: "the scientific understanding of the mechanisms underlying thought and intelligent behavior and their embodiment in machines."
However, if you are fortunate enough to have more than a minute, then please get ready to embark upon an exciting journey exploring AI (but beware, it could last a lifetime) …
VT (vertical transportation) is an expert system for handling the design of elevator systems that is currently in use at Westinghouse Elevator Company. Although VT tries to postpone each decision in creating a design until all information that constrains the decision is known, for many decisions this postponement is not possible. In these cases, VT uses the strategy of constructing a plausible approximation and successively refining it. VT uses domain-specific knowledge to guide its backtracking search for successful refinements. The VT architecture provides the basis for a knowledge representation that is used by SALT, an automated knowledge-acquisition tool. SALT was used to build VT and provides an analysis of VT's knowledge base to assess its potential for convergence on a solution.
Bachant, Judith, McDermott, John
In 1980, Digital Equipment Corporation began to use a rule-based system called R1 by some and XCON by others to configure VAX-11 computer systems. In the intervening years, R1's knowledge has increased substantially and its usefulness to Digital continues to grow. This article describes what is involved in extending R1's performance during the four year period.
R1 is a rule-based program that configures VAX-11 computer systems. Given a customer's purchase order, it determines what, if any, substitutions and additions have to be made to the order to make it consistent and complete and produces a number of diagrams showing the spatial and logical relationships among the 90 or so components that typically constitute a system. The program has been used on a regular basis by Digital Equipment Corporation's manufacturing organization since January of 1980. R1 has sufficient knowledge of the configuration domain and of the percliarities of the various configuration constraints that at each step in the configuration process, it simply recognizes what to do; thus it requires little search in order to configure a computer system.