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Google kicks off $25M contest for AI social impact

AI-enabled wildfire project
California high-school students Sanjana Shah and Aditya Shah built a device that uses AI to identify areas in a forest that are susceptible to wildfires. (Google Photo)

Google today unveiled a $25 million initiative called the Google AI Impact Challenge, aimed at soliciting and supporting projects that make use of artificial intelligence to solve some of the world’s greatest social, humanitarian and environmental problems.

The global challenge is open to nonprofit organizations and public charities — and to for-profit businesses as well, as long as their projects have a charitable purpose.

Google’s call to humanitarian action is part of its broader “AI for Social Good” campaign, and comes just weeks after Google Cloud decided not to bid on the Pentagon’s $10 billion JEDI cloud computing project due to ethical concerns.

Microsoft, which is bidding on the contract, announced its own $40 million “AI for Humanitarian Action” initiative last month. And in the weeks before his death, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen set up a new organization called the Vulcan Machine Learning Center for Impact to support the use of machine learning for philanthropic projects.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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