Gov’t pledges think tank dedicated to AI

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Gov’t pledges think tank dedicated to AI

The historic match between Go master Lee Se-dol and Google’s artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm AlphaGo this past week focused attention on Korea’s lagging capabilities in the AI sector.

In response, the government has announced plans to establish a private think tank focused on AI by June at the earliest.

According to the plan given by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning to President Park Geun-hye, Samsung Electronics, SK Telecom, KT, Naver and Hyundai Motor will each donate 3 billion won ($2.6 million) to the new center.

The think tank will be devoted to so-called AI information technology, a term the ministry has created. It will cover AI-related software as well as big data, Internet of Things and cloud technology. Some 50 academics will work on research and development for AI technologies, as well as come up with measures to deploy and commercialize them. The AI software will be centered around language, visualization, space and creativity.

“It is our goal to complete the research center by the first half, but we need to discuss and collaborate with the large companies participating,” said Kim Yong-soo, head of the information technology policy department at the ministry.

He also encouraged smaller firms, universities and state-run think tanks to join forces.

The ministry set specific goals and deadlines for each sector related to AI. Using the think tank, Korea aims to become the best in the world in language-related AI and snatch the top prize in the prestigious ImageNet Large Scale Visual Recognition Challenge detection competition by 2019 at the latest.

Also by 2019, drones and robots powered by native AI technology will be able to assist in disaster relief operations and health care for the elderly.

By 2020, Korea’s own artificial intelligence programs will be able to understand the plot of a film and provide a summary through video clips that it edits itself.

When one reporter questioned whether the plans are feasible considering that industry leaders like Google and IBM won’t just sit still, Kim said the gap between Korean companies and these global giants isn’t “too big” to consider the goals quixotic. Kim added that most AI-related software is open-source and thus can be immediately utilized by Korean companies.

To realize the plans, the government promised to spend 1 trillion won between 2016 and 2020, and encouraged private companies to donate over 2.5 trillion won in the same period.

Earlier this week, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy also announced it would devote 20 billion won this year to developing AI technologies, up from the 13 billion won under the initial plan.

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