Google's artificial intelligence technology is being used by the US Department of Defense to analyze drone footage, a rare and controversial move by a company that's actively limited its work with the military in the past.
A Google spokesperson told Gizmodo that the firm is providing the Defense Department with TensorFlow application programming interfaces (APIs), which are used in machine learning applications, to help military personnel detect objects in images.
So far: Project Maven, the program Google is assisting, aims to "accelerate DoD's integration of big data and machine learning", according to the Pentagon, and automating analysis of drone footage is the first objective. The project started in April of previous year with a mission to "accelerate DoD's integration of big data and machine learning". Google's involvement in the project wasn't public, but it was apparently discussed internally at Google last week and leaked.
The Pentagon's spokesman has declined to disclose the tech giant's role in the envisaged project, while a Google spokesperson has said the technology was for "non-offensive uses only".
A tipster for The Verge added that Google was helping the military configure TensorFlow for use, although it's not clear whether that's active development or just the basic setup process. However, the machine-learning assistance is most definitely not about facilitating the raining down of Hellfire missiles upon hapless humans, Google said. While its cloud competitors, Amazon and Microsoft Azure, offer government-oriented cloud products created to hold information classified as secret, Google does not now have a similar product offering.
The press release said Maven's initial focus was to detect "38 classes of objects that represent the kinds of things the department needs to detect, especially in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria".More news: PSG project called into question after latest European let-down
Schmidt, who stepped down as executive chairman of Google parent company Alphabet last month, chairs the Defence Innovation Board.
The project is called "Project Maven", also known as the "Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional Team (AWCFT)".
"You don't buy AI like you buy ammunition", Cukor said. "Key elements have to be put together ... and the only way to do that is with commercial partners alongside us".
A Google spokesperson confirmed the partnership to Gizmodo, but said that it does not pertain to military combat.
"Similar to other DOD programs, Project Maven does not comment on the specifics of contract details, including the names and identities of program contractors and subcontractors", Gizmodo cited him as saying.