The $15 million MIT-Air force AI Accelerator program aims to foster innovation for both the Air Force's interests and society as a whole.
As one of the world’s biggest technology purchasers, The Pentagon has invested millions into everything from advanced fighter planes to cloud services. But despite putting billions of dollars into acquisitions and launching the Defense Innovation Unit it 2015 to connect defense startups together, the Defense Department has had trouble getting new technologies through its grueling procurement process.
That’s why the military is partnering with MIT to begin the process earlier so that the US military may be equipped with the latest technology from startups. The two jointly announced the launch of a new accelerator focused on the use of artificial intelligence. Named the MIT-Air force AI Accelerator (apparently, there were no points for creative names), the project will be located at MIT’s new computing college that is expected to launch this fall.
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The Air Force is putting $15 million into the accelerator, which will include about 10 MIT-based research projects a year. This joint project isn’t the first accelerator the Air Force has invested in, as it has also partnered with companies such as Techstars to create a program that aims to directly solve some of the Air Force’s problems. These include technologies that detect, track, and identify unmanned systems in addition to using AR/VR and gamification to educate, train, and recruit individuals. It is not known at this time whether the two accelerators will operate independently or in conjunction with each other.
The US military has a long history with MIT, working together on a number of high-tech projects. However, concerns among technologists have grown recently, particularly when it comes to emerging fields such as artificial technology and drones for military use.
In 2018, Google employees petitioned to stop the tech giant from renewing its contract with the military to develop a cloud platform called Project Maven. The project would have performed image analysis on footage captured from drones in conflict areas in addition to other battlefield applications for artificial intelligence and algorithms.
In the announcement, MIT representatives stated that the accelerator’s objective is to “advance the underlying science behind AI and facilitate societal applications, including helping create solutions in fields like disaster relief and medical preparedness that are of interest to the Air Force.”
The project will assemble interdisciplinary teams to “collaborate across disparate fields of AI to create new algorithms and solutions.” It will work to develop new algorithms and systems to assist complex decision-making for the Air Force, such as in planning and control. MIT also hopes that the rapid deployment of its advanced algorithms and capabilities will foster AI innovation across the country in fields that include disaster relief, medical readiness, data management, vehicle safety, and cyber resiliency – all of which may lead to positive changes in the world. All the while, the project will “integrate societal implications into research from the outset.”