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June 27, 2018

NASA Lab Looks to Spur AI Development

George Leopold

A NASA laboratory is working with Google, Intel and other industry heavyweights to launch applied AI technologies into space.

The space agency’s Frontier Development Lab is targeting four space applications that would use AI and machine learning technologies, including improved prediction of space weather and accelerating the discovery of exoplanets. The results of a public-private partnership to launch AI-based technologies will be announced at Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., on Aug. 16.

The NASA lab also is working with the SETI Institute, the non-profit group searching for signs of life in the universe. SETI was an early adopter of data analytics, machine learning and signal detection technologies.

SETI Institute hosts the NASA lab focused on accelerating research on applied AI. The lab was launched in 2016 in partnership with the NASA Ames Research Center. It aims to accelerate development of applied AI to help fill “knowledge gaps in space science and exploration,” SETI said this week.

The goal is to apply AI technologies to specific space exploration missions. Along with exoplanets and space weather, the AI accelerator program will focus on astrobiology and space resources, including space mining and lunar water recovery. “AI is a game changer for space exploration,” said NASA Ames’ Dan Rasky.

Among the functioning AI workflows developed by the NASA lab and deployed by the space agency is an effort to detect so-called “long period” comets that take hundreds of years to orbit the sun.

Along with Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL) and Intel, the NASA lab’s private sector partners include IBM (NYSE: IBM), Nvidia (NASDAQ: NVDA), database and time-series data specialist Kx Systems and aerospace giant Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT).

Along with investments, commercial and international partners also provide “vast GPU compute resources necessary for rapid experimentation and iteration in data intensive areas,” the NASA lab’s websitenotes.

NASA is among a growing number of U.S. technology agencies working with Silicon Valley companies on advancing AI and electronics. This week, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said it was expanding next month’s Electronics Resurgence Initiative Summitin San Francisco to include AI technologies.

The AI workshop will focus specifically on hardware for next-generation AI. “AI developers will need new hardware structures to support reconfigurable and updateable software architectures as well as adaptive AI software that can exploit dynamic hardware capabilities,” the agency noted.

The DARPA summit runs from July 23 to 25.

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