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MIT, Air Force to team up to tackle artificial intelligence

A new program called the MIT-Air Force AI Accelerator, will look at improving Air Force operations and addressing larger societal needs, such as responses to disasters and medical readiness, MIT said in a statement.
A new program called the MIT-Air Force AI Accelerator, will look at improving Air Force operations and addressing larger societal needs, such as responses to disasters and medical readiness, MIT said in a statement. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff/File/2012)

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is teaming up with the US Air Force to make advances in artificial intelligence technology, the school announced Monday morning.

The new program, called the MIT-Air Force AI Accelerator, will look at improving Air Force operations and addressing larger societal needs, such as responses to disasters and medical readiness, MIT said in a statement. The team will look to do research for “enabling rapid prototyping, scaling, and application of AI algorithms and systems.”

“Our 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,” Daniela Rus, director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, said in the statement.

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The project will build upon about 50 years of collaboration between MIT and the Air Force, the university said. Every year going forward, the Air Force will invest about $15 million toward the project.

The goal is to use the new algorithms and systems to help with complex decision-making, which could be useful for the Air Force, and to help cultivate AI innovation throughout the United States, the university said.

Other areas the AI innovation could help with are data management, vehicle safety, and cyber resiliency, the university said.

“MIT is the leading institution for AI research, education, and application, making this a huge opportunity for the Air Force as we deepen and expand our scientific and technical enterprise,” US Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said in the statement. “Drawing from one of the best of American research universities is vital.”

Teams of researchers, faculty, and students who specialize in topics related to artificial intelligence, robotics, and others will work on the project led by members from the Air Force, the university said. The teams will also include those who are leaders in technology policy, history, and ethics from across the university, and the school plans on focusing on the “societal implications of computing and AI.”

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“The AI Accelerator provides us with an opportunity to develop technologies that will be vectors for positive change in the world,” Rus said. “This new project will integrate societal implications into research from the outset.”

The AI Accelerator will be a part of MIT’s Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing, which opens in the fall, the university said.


Breanne Kovatch can be reached at breanne.kovatch@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @breannekovatch.