Innovation

IBM, MIT partner on $240M Watson AI Lab to study AI's impact and build new tools

IBM and MIT have announced a 10-year project to build a new artificial intelligence lab focused on hardware, software, and algorithms.

On Thursday, MIT and IBM unveiled plans to invest $240 million over the next 10 years to build a new MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab. The lab, announced in an MIT press release, will carry out artificial intelligence (AI) research in an effort to propel forward the hardware, software, and algorithms that power AI itself.

According to the release, more than 100 AI scientists, professors, and students will work on the research in Cambridge, MA, nearby the MIT campus and other IBM properties. Their work will seek to boost the impact of AI on cybersecurity and healthcare, while also examining AI's impact on society as a whole.

"The field of artificial intelligence has experienced incredible growth and progress over the past decade. Yet today's AI systems, as remarkable as they are, will require new innovations to tackle increasingly difficult real-world problems to improve our work and lives," John Kelly III, IBM senior vice president of Cognitive Solutions and Research, said in the release.

SEE: Special report: How to implement AI and machine learning (free PDF)

IBM and MIT will eventually call for research proposals in a host of areas regarding AI. For starters, the pair will look into researching algorithms that extend the capabilities of machine learning and can address more issues than just specialized tasks. Part of the algorithm research will focus on how to use limited data to complement human intelligence, the release said.

Another area of focus for the lab will be the physics of AI. As noted by the release, researchers will look into "new AI hardware materials, devices, and architectures that will support future analog computational approaches to AI model training and deployment, as well as the intersection of quantum computing and machine learning."

The lab will also be investigating the application of AI to industries, and its potential economic and societal benefits as well, the release said. Another part of the lab related to its industry focus will be to support MIT faculty and students in launching companies that commercialize AI techniques and technologies developed within the lab itself. Additionally, lab work will published, and the scientists will contribute to open source initiatives as well.

MIT and IBM have been working together for many decades, the release said, with both parties having spent many years working in AI and related disciplines.

"True breakthroughs are often the result of fresh thinking inspired by new kinds of research teams. The combined MIT and IBM talent dedicated to this new effort will bring formidable power to a field with staggering potential to advance knowledge and help solve important challenges," MIT president L. Rafael Reif said in the release.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. IBM and MIT are building a joint Watson AI Lab, investing $240 million in the project over the next 10 years.
  2. The lab will focus on the hardware, software, and algorithms behind AI, as well as its potential economic and societal impact on the world.
  3. IBM and MIT will call for research proposals in extending algorithms, the physics of AI and more, while also encouraging MIT students and staff to launch companies based on the AI research at the lab.

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/agsandrew

About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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