Explore the new MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab with five key takeaways, four pillars of research, and thoughts from some of the data scientists.

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IBM plans to make a 10-year, $240 million investment to create the MIT–IBM Watson AI Lab in partnership with MIT. The lab will carry out fundamental artificial intelligence research and seek to propel scientific breakthroughs to unlock the potential of AI.

The collaboration is designed to advance intelligent hardware, software, and algorithms related to deep learning and other areas, increase augmented intelligence’s impact on industries, such as health care and cybersecurity, and explore the economic and ethical implications of smart machines on society.

It will be organized into four pillars of research:

  • Algorithms – developing advanced algorithms to expand capabilities in machine learning and reasoning which involves creating AI systems that move beyond specialized tasks to tackling more complex problems and benefiting from robust, continuous learning
  • Physics – investigating new AI hardware materials, devices, and architectures that will support future analog computational approaches to AI model training and deployment, as well as the intersection of quantum computing and machine learning; this will involve using AI to help characterize and improve quantum devices
  • Application to industries – developing new applications of AI for professional use, including fields such as health care and cybersecurity
  • Advancing shared prosperity – exploring how AI can deliver economic and societal benefits to a broader range of people, nations, and enterprises

Here are some thoughts from participating data scientists.



Mark Ritter, Francesca Rossi, Jianying Hu, Michael Witbrock, Wilfried Haensch, IBM Research

Mark Ritter, IBM Research

“Today, scientists are researching methods of optimally controlling quantum devices. Machine learning may be able to help optimize control to improve quantum calculations, and quantum computers may help improve aspects of machine learning. It’s through the richness of this enterprise with MIT that we can study the intersection of quantum and AI.”

Francesca Rossi, IBM Research

“At IBM, and now in partnership with MIT, our focus is understanding how to make sure that AI behaves according to values aligned to those of humans and that each system is accountable for its actions. As a result, AI will be built with responsibility at the core and everyone — across economies, societies and nations — will benefit greatly.”

Jianying Hu, IBM Research

“Deep learning has enabled strides in recognizing and analyzing one type of data, such as radiology images for cancer diagnoses. One of the next frontiers is combining multiple forms of data in a way that can be leveraged by AI systems to provide more holistic observations and comprehensive models.”

Michael Witbrock, IBM Research

“We’ll be addressing really difficult problems in AI that will yield new capabilities. What’s so beneficial about the Lab and its embedded focus on healthcare and cybersecurity is that we’ll be able quickly apply these new capabilities to significant industry challenges that are particularly well-suited to receive the benefits.”

Wilfried Haensch, IBM Research

“The ability to co-develop both the materials and the algorithms – drawing on the expertise of researchers from IBM and MIT – is a key advantage of the new Lab. It’s a strong symbiosis. IBM has deep base knowledge of materials in the analog space and their incorporation in commercial technology, which we will bring to the collaboration with MIT.”

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