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Artificial intelligence (A.I.) and machine learning have emerged as key tools in the armory of many major tech companies, but can it be harnessed to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges? IBM and Xprize want to find out.
First announced back in February, the $5 million IBM Watson AI Xprize is a competition from Xprize, an initiative launched in 1995 to help solve “the world’s Grand Challenges” through incentive-based prizes. Registrations for the four-year global competition are now open, with entrants asked to show how humans and A.I. can tackle issues in education, energy and the environment, health care, exploration, and global development.
Xprize has given birth to numerous notable competitions in the past, one of the most recent being the Google-sponsored Lunar Xprize that’s setting out to send a private, unmanned aircraft to the moon. The IBM Watson A.I. Xprize takes on a slightly different form, however — it’s the first one that is entirely open, meaning entrants can define their goals and challenges entirely rather than working to a prescribed agenda.
Artificial intelligence is already being used to enhance a range of areas, from drug discovery and customer service to cybersecurity and stock photography, but Xprize CEO Marcus Shingles reckons it can be used tackle some of the biggest challenges humanity faces in the years ahead.
“In the coming decade, as Xprize strives to achieve its impact mission through incentive competitions and crowdsourcing, we see tremendous opportunity in this emerging generation of problem solvers to use A.I. to solve humanity’s grandest challenges,” he said. “The IBM Watson A.I. Xprize is intended to promote and progress the notion of ‘A.I. for impact’ among the global bold innovator crowd, both the established community of practitioners, as well as encourage newcomers to experiment and ultimately demonstrate how A.I. can be used as a tool for good.”
Registrations are open until December 1 this year, after which there is a three-month period to submit detailed development plans. Three rounds of selection will follow, which will whittle the final entrants down to 10 teams. There are smaller milestone prizes en route to the final, but the winning team will be awarded a $3 million grand prize, with second place and third place scooping $1 million and $500,000 respectively.
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