Microsoft, Zuckerberg and Allen team up to use AI in the fight against coronavirus — and are challenging other researchers to rise to the occasion

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Financial Services Committee hearing in 2019AP

  • Microsoft Research, the Allen Institute for AI and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative have launched the Covid-19 Open Research Dataset (CORD-19).
  • Tech giants want researchers to use free dataset to solve the unanswered questions around coronavirus using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).
  • Kaggle is hosting a challenge based on CORD-19 as a call to action for AI-based solutions.
Tech giants have teamed up to try and use artificial intelligence (AI) to fight the coronavirus outbreak. Over 29,000 scientific articles are available online, for free, through the Covid-19 Open Research Dataset ( CORD-19).

The initiative includes Microsoft Research, the Allen Institute for AI — founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen — and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, set up by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan.

The entire database will be updated on a weekly basis, adding new research from peer-reviewed journals and other archival services. In order to motivate researchers to take the challenge head-on, Kaggle is hosting the Covid-19 Open Research Dataset Challenge (CORD-19).

“We are issuing a call to action to the world's artificial intelligence experts to develop text and data mining tools that can help the medical community develop answers to high priority scientific questions,” says the invite.

All hands on deck
The actual papers are provided by the National Institute of Health’s National Library of Medicine. It’s also linked to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) database of publications on coronavirus. The project is being coordinated by Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology ( CSET).

Even though the database was requested by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy — anyone from around the world harness the information to make their own deductions.

Finding alternative solutions
The main problem with running AI algorithms and applying machine learning (ML) is that, often, developers don’t have the required datasets.

“With this step, we’ve made available full-text, machine-readable resources to help speed response to this global crisis,” said Dewey Murdick, CSET’s director of data science.

Another tech company called Fold@Home is distributing a computing project online that helps users and contributors conduct research on Covid-19 by simulating molecular dynamics. Researchers can simulate processes like protein folding and drug design to understand how the coronavirus would react.

The software is free for use but requires a lot of computing power. That is probably why the largest contributors to the cause have been PC gamers. Graphic chip manufacturer NVIDIA teamed up with PC Master Race to convince a large group of gamers to donate a portion of their computing power to the research effort.

As of today, there are over 165,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus worldwide across 146 countries — with 126 people infected in India.

See also:
Coronavirus recovery rate at 54% as doctors race to find a cure

Coronavirus in India — a visual guide to how the Covid-19 infection is spreading in the country

Coronavirus pandemic: Bill Gates warned us that this day would come five years ago

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