Sunnyvale, Calif. Alphabet Inc’s Google announced on Monday that it would grant about $25 million globally next year to humanitarian and environmental projects seeking to use artificial intelligence (AI) to speed up and grow their efforts.
The “AI Impact Challenge” is meant to inspire organizations to ask Google for help in machine learning, a form of AI in which computers analyze large datasets to make predictions or detect patterns and anomalies.
Google’s rivals Microsoft Corp and Amazon.com Inc tout “AI for good” initiatives too as reported by Reuters.
Focusing on humanitarian projects could aid Google in recruiting and soothe critics by demonstrating that its interests in machine learning extend beyond its core business and other lucrative areas, such as military work. After employee backlash Google this year said it would not renew a deal to analyze U.S. military drone footage.
Google AI Chief Operating Officer Irina Kofman told Reuters the challenge was not a reaction to such pushback, but noted that thousands of employees are eager to work on “social good” projects even though they do not directly generate revenue.
At a media event on Monday, Google showcased existing projects similar to those it wants to inspire. In one, Google’s computers recently learned to detect the singing of humpback whales with 90 percent precision from 170,000 hours of underwater audio recordings gathered by the U.S. government.