Last year, Microsoft announced the formation of a new Artificial Intelligence and Research Group, with over 5,000 computer scientists. At the time, the company said it intended to "build the world’s most powerful AI supercomputer with Azure and make it available to anyone, to enable people and organizations to harness its power".
Today, Microsoft revealed a new initiative to use its AI and machine learning capabilities in "solving some of the biggest environmental challenges of our time".
"The scale and speed of the changes we see in our physical and natural world require new solutions," Microsoft said today. "But the latest innovative technologies often come with a price tag and require computational expertise that puts them out of reach for many researchers and nongovernmental organizations."
Microsoft AI for Earth aims to provide AI tools and technologies to researchers and organizations, to help them understand and solve "important issues related to water, agriculture, biodiversity and climate change."
The program will include offering access to cloud and AI resources, along with training, and partnership on 'lighthouse projects'. Three such projects are already in action: "one enabling land cover mapping to aid precision conservation; another that will enable smart agriculture through sensors, drones, data and broadband connectivity; and another that will test the viability of using our smart mosquito traps to remotely track and monitor species health."
Just over a year ago, Microsoft's Dave Coplin described AI as "the most important technology that anybody on the planet is working on today." If Microsoft succeeds in helping to "create a more sustainable future" for the planet - a key goal of its AI for Earth program - he may well be proved right.