- The U.S. Air Force announced a partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to start a new accelerator focused on artificial intelligence solutions for "real-world, national security challenges."
- The Air Force will spend $15 million a year on the Air Force Artificial Intelligence Incubator and 11 airmen will work on a collaborative research team with MIT professors and students. The accelerator will focus on a range of technology in fields including computational intelligence, reasoning, autonomy and decision-making.
- Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told MIT Technology Review that the collaboration would further the branch’s Science and Technology Strategy. That document, released in April, calls on the Air Force to "set an unmatched pace" on technology research in order to build a more lethal force, strengthen alliances and reform the Defense Department.
The military, with its massive budget and mandate to seek out new technology, has acted as a major customer and incubator for technological advancements. The Air Force on its own spends $2.5 billion annually on early-stage research. The venture into AI research makes sense; the Science and Technology Strategy, which looks out to 2030, says AI could help the Air Force improve decision-making and plan for unstable and unpredictable conditions in the field.
However, applications could go well beyond defense. According to MIT Technology Review, the incubator will look at AI applications "for the public good," which could accelerate AI impacts in workforce or city applications. For example, AI networks dealing with uncertainty in battlefield conditions could also be applied to disaster response.
The military has also emerged as a key smart city research partner on a variety of projects. The U.S. Marine Corps signed a memorandum of understanding with the city of San Diego earlier this year to research and install technology, including drones, part of the organization’s effort to design modern military bases. The U.S. Army is also opening a technology center in Austin, TX, where it will bolster the surrounding research and tech community.