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Today Stanford HAI announced it has awarded more than $2.5 million dollars in seed grants to fund interdisciplinary artificial intelligence (AI) research at Stanford University that aims to improve the human condition. This is the third year HAI has distributed seed grants across the university to fund new, ambitious, and speculative ideas with the objective of getting initial results.

Up to $75,000 was awarded to each of the 34 projects announced today. Project teams represent all seven Stanford schools and are composed of 76 faculty members ranging from computer science to political science to hospital medicine, performance studies and more. 

With HAI’s focus on interdisciplinary collaboration, the institute selected projects reflecting one or more of its key research areas: creating next generation AI technologies that are inspired by the depth and versatility of human intelligence, developing applications of AI that augment human capabilities, and studying the societal impact of AI technologies.

“The future of AI must be informed by experts from a range of disciplines, working together with a shared purpose to guide the technology towards greater public good,” said Deep Ganguli, Director of Research for Stanford HAI. “The projects that received funding this year represent a range of technical, historical, ethnographic, clinical, experimental, and inventive work. Many of the projects involve collaborations of faculty and students whose work bridges two or more departments or schools, which we believe is critical to fostering intellectually rich, human-centered AI research.”

This year's seed grant projects span diverse research topics. Some grantees will explore sustainability, such as using AI to study changing sea levels or for early wildfire detection. Others will focus on “explainable AI,” a nascent research area that seeks to demystify how complicated AI systems work in order to increase trust and transparency among humans who work with, or may be affected by, such systems.

Additional projects will examine bias and disinformation, as well as pursue advances in health care including an AI-based tool for studying parent-child interactions in early childhood development. Finally, some projects will focus on advancing the next generation of core AI technology — these projects are primarily motivated by understanding and building upon the depth and versatility of human intelligence.

View all 2020 Seed Grant recipient projects

To date the HAI seed grant program has provided more than $5.5 million to support 85 research projects. Past HAI seed grant projects have already had wide-ranging impact. For example, prior projects have improved control of parasitic disease in Senegal and helped match immigrants to locations where they are most likely to succeed and integrate into communities. Others have facilitated the redefinition of a political, economic, and moral framework suited for the AI age, and investigated second-order optimization methods for neural networks tailored for biomedical applications.

“With the potential to radically transform every industry and every society, the future of AI is in the hands of today’s researchers and scholars,” said Fei-Fei Li, Sequoia Professor in the Computer Science Department and Denning Co-Director of Stanford HAI. “Funding transformative AI research at an early stage is core to our mission at HAI. We’re excited to see what these Stanford faculty and students will do, and grateful to be able to help enable their work.”

The HAI seed grant program is generously supported by Dalio Philanthropies.

Listen to some of this year’s recipients describe their work:

Victoria Ward, Clinical Assistant Professor, Pediatrics

Monroe Kennedy III, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Lawrence "Rusty" Hofmann, Professor of Radiology