AI technologies the focus of DARPA's $2 billion "AI Next" campaign

ARLINGTON, Va. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) unveiled a multiyear investment of more than $2 billion in new and existing artificial intelligence (AI) programs it is calling the “AI Next” campaign.

Agency director Dr. Steven Walker officially announced the large-scale effort at the recent DARPA D60 Symposium: “With AI Next, we are making multiple research investments aimed at transforming computers from specialized tools to partners in problem-solving,” he said. “Today, machines lack contextual reasoning capabilities, and their training must cover every eventuality, which is not only costly, but ultimately impossible. 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.”

DARPA documents reveal that AI Next will explore such key areas as automating critical business processes, such as 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 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 says that it is currently pursuing more than 20 programs that seek to advance the state of the art in AI, pushing beyond second-wave machine-learning techniques towards contextual reasoning capabilities. Moreover, more than 60 of DARPA's active programs are applying AI in some form, from agents collaborating to share electromagnetic spectrum bandwidth to detecting and patching vulnerabilities.

DARPA plans to issue multiple Broad Agency Announcements for new programs that advance the state of the art in AI over the next 12 months.

Topics covered in this article