IBM is working on a project to improve quality of life through artificial intelligence (AI), in conjunction with the University of California San Diego.

The multi-year undertaking will work to help elderly citizens gain independence and improve their standard of living through the application of AI technology and life sciences to two themes: healthy ageing and the human microbiome.

An international group of leading universities working with IBM forms the IBM Cognitive Horizons Network, of which this project is a part. The aim of the network is to work on technologies which fulfil the potential of AI.

The initiative will search through enormous datasets using AI, to make findings that will enable healthier living. Resources will also be set aside for faculty research, funds for training opportunities for UC San Diego students, as well as specialist equipment.

The project’s broad goals are to develop and evaluate a cognitive framework for a supportive living environment that facilitates older adults to live independently for longer and have a higher quality of life. It also aims to discover and better understand the health implications of the human microbiome.

Machine learning algorithms that work to sense, understand, model, personalise and inform are expected to be developed in the project. In particular, these algorithms are required to be human-centred, and testable in real-world environments.

Thanks to its lengthy timescale, the project’s creators intend to study, for the first time, the impact that the combination of daily habits, the environment and genetics will have on the cognitive abilities of older people. Through this, and the use of AI, it is expected to be able to model the subtle changes of ageing. It will also intervene on a personalised basis through robots, to help support wellness.

IBM SVP of cognitive solutions and research, Dr. John Kelly III, said: ‘We’re committed to collaborating with the best minds in academia to inspire the next generation of scientists by providing access to leading-edge AI tools and expertise to solve real problems that impact human lives.’

UC San Diego chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla also spoke of a commitment to working on real-life problems: ‘This is a very prestigious relationship for UC San Diego, the first university on the West Coast to collaborate with the IBM Cognitive Horizons Network.

‘Our campus is home to changemakers whose innovation will help advance cognitive wellness to make a difference in our lives.’

Health and medicine are seeing an increasing number of applications of AI. It was recently found that the technology could be used to help detect skin cancer at its earlier stages, improving survival rates.