Google has revealed a new addition to its overarching outreach programs called 'AI for Social Good' and is kicking things off with a funding pool for AI projects that have positive societal implications via the Google AI Impact Challenge. Open to the world's nonprofits, social enterprises, and research institutions, the requirements to get involved in the initiative are fairly broad. Applicants need to submit a feasible and scalable plan that aligns with Google's Responsible AI Practices and would utilize AI to address 'social and environmental challenges'. Submissions don't necessarily require that the organization submitting the idea has a background or a lot of experience with AI. In addition to funding grants between $500,000 and $2 million for ideas that meet the criteria, Google is offering other resources to projects that are chosen, including access to an AI educational toolkit and support from Google’s AI experts. What's more, those participants will receive credit and consulting from Google Cloud among other things.
Background: As alluded to above, AI for Social Good is not Google's only outreach program and not its only program looking specifically at problems associated with bettering natural disaster response and prediction, healthcare improvements, conservation, employment, or similar issues. Previous initiatives have encompassed each of those categories and many others ranging from transparency in its own organization and sister companies to directly helping make science and technology education more accessible for rural or impoverished areas around the world. However, this time around, Google is putting a more direct focus on bringing forward ideas from others that will have a similar impact and providing the resources needed to make improvements.
In order to imbue prospective applicants with a sense of purpose and an idea of what Google believes can be accomplished through the initiative, the company has provided several examples of work that's already being done with AI to solve world problems. To begin with, the company highlights nonprofits such as Global Fishing Watch and Rainforest Connection. The first of those is using AI to classify and track shipping activity in the oceans, specifically monitoring for fishing activity and noting possible hotspots where activity such as transshipment of illegally caught seafood might be occurring. It also notes which vessels might be involved in illicit activity across 300 thousand vessels and 12 category types. Rainforest Connection, on the other hand, is using modified smartphones installed with solar panels inside the rainforests of the Amazon as listening devices. Artificial intelligence algorithms built around Google's TensorFlow scans auditorial data to alert conservationists when it detects the use of chainsaws, logging trucks, and other heavy equipment associated with deforestation as well as other sounds of illegal activity.
Impact: The implications of this project are essentially up in the air for the time being since there's no real way to gauge what types of projects might be submitted. However, the search giant has asked that projects submitted are able to spend the allotted funding within one to three years and primarily on the implementation of the solutions themselves. That should result in ideas that are moved forward fairly rapidly, which appears to be the underlying goal for this particular outreach project. Projects can be submitted through 11:59 PM PST on January 22 and Google will be reviewing each application before selecting and announcing recipients in the spring of 2019.