The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) kicked off its new ‘AI Next’ campaign with a multi-year commitment to spend more than $2 billion on new and existing artificial intelligence programs to help create machines that can adapt to changing situations.

“With AI Next, we are making multiple research investments aimed at transforming computers from specialized tools to partners in problem-solving,” said Dr. Steven Walker, director of DARPA, in announcing the program today. “We want to explore how machines can acquire human-like communication and reasoning capabilities, with the ability to recognize new situations and environments and adapt to them.”

The new program adds to the Pentagon’s existing investments in AI that are coalescing in the Defense Department’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, and the military continues to make advances in AI faster than any other branch of the government, as a recent MeriTalk research study found.

DARPA said it is already pursuing more than 20 new programs to advance AI, and the agency currently uses AI in more than 60 programs. “Over the next 12 months, DARPA plans to issue multiple Broad Agency Announcements for new programs that advance the state of the art in AI,” the agency stated.

The AI Next program will focus on the areas of adding new capabilities, robust AI, adversarial AI, high performance AI, and Next Generation AI, according to the program’s website. “Under AI Next, key areas to be explored may include automating critical DoD business processes, such as security clearance vetting in a week or accrediting software systems in one day for operational deployment; improving the robustness and reliability of AI systems; enhancing the security and resiliency of machine learning and AI technologies; reducing power, data, and performance inefficiencies; and pioneering the next generation of AI algorithms and applications, such as ‘explainability’ and commonsense reasoning,” DARPA said.

Along with the AI Next initiative, today’s announcement also included the Artificial Intelligence Exploration (AIE) program, which “constitutes a series of high-risk, high payoff projects where researchers will work to establish the feasibility of new AI concepts within 18 months of award,” according to DARPA. The announcement noted that AIE will use streamlined contracting procedures and funding mechanisms to allow companies to move from proposal to kick-off in three months.

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