SUNNYVALE, California (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL.OGoogle announced Monday that it would provide around $ 25 million worldwide to humanitarian and environmental projects using artificial intelligence (AI) next year to accelerate and expand its efforts.
FILE PHOTO: A Google badge is being seen during the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai, China, on September 17, 2018. REUTERS / Aly Song / File Photo
The AI Impact Challenge is designed to inspire organizations to ask Google for help in machine learning, a form of artificial intelligence where computers analyze large data sets to make predictions or identify patterns and anomalies.
Google's rival Microsoft Corp. (MSFT.O) and Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN.O) "AI for Good" initiatives too.
Concentrating on humanitarian projects could help Google recruit and reassure critics by showing that its machine learning interests go beyond its core business and other lucrative areas such as military work. Following the backlash from staff, Google said this year it would not renew a deal to analyze US military drone shootings.
Irina Kofman, AI's Chief Operating Officer, told Reuters that the challenge was not a response to such pushbacks, but noted that thousands of people like to work on "socially good" projects, even though they generate revenue directly.
At a media event on Monday, Google presented existing projects that are similar to those that it wants to inspire. In one, Google's computers have recently learned to recognize the 90 percent accuracy of humpback whales being heard from 170,000 hours of underwater audio recorded by the US government.
The audio previously required manual analysis, meaning "this is the first time this dataset has been fully considered," said Ann Allen, an ecologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Identifying patterns could show how humans have influenced the migration of whales, Allen said. Finally, a real-time audio analysis could help ships to avoid walkollisions.
Of course, there are gaps in the data because whales do not always sing, and getting ships to use data about the location of animals may require new regulation, said two whale experts.
Julie Cattiau, a Google product manager for whale work, said Google plans to make whale software available to other organizations for improvement.
According to Cattiau, Google will not charge for such tools, although users may choose to combine them with paid Google Cloud services.
Jacquelline Fuller, vice president of Google's non-profit arm Google.org, said the Impact Challenge applications would be due on January 20 and judged on potential beneficiaries, feasibility and ethical considerations.
This year, Google.org filtered Grant applications for the first time with its own machine learning tool after Fuller received a record number of entries for an Africa-specific competition.
(The story corrects the amount Google grants $ 25 million and not $ 20 million in the title and first paragraph.)
Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Stephen Coates