Elon Musk

Elon Musk's Artificial Intelligence Project Just Got a Free Supercomputer

Elon Musk's Artificial Intelligence Project Just Got a Free Supercomputer

Huang onstage at an Nvidia even in San Jose.

Image credit: Image credit: Kim Kulish—Corbis via Fortune
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OpenAI non-profit gets a powerful new toy to research AI.

An Elon Musk-backed artificial intelligence research group just got a brand new toy from chip maker Nvidia.

Nvidia said on Monday that it had donated one of its new supercomputers to the OpenAI non-profit artificial intelligence research project. OpenAI debuted in December with financial backing from Tesla and SpaceX CEO Musk along with money from other high-profile technology luminaries like LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.

OpenAI’s goal is partly to create a non-profit outside the corporate sector that could research artificial intelligence technologies without a financial incentive. The concern is that many companies like Google and Facebook that are researching artificial intelligence technologies would horde talent and only work on projects beneficial to their financial interests.

Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang personally delivered the supercomputer, the newly introduced DGX-1, last week to OpenAI’s San Francisco office. A photo accompanying the press announcement shows both Huang and Musk looking at the supercomputer, which Huang signed.

“To Elon and the OpenAI Team!” wrote Huang on the supercomputer’s body. “To the future of computing and humanity. I present you the world’s first DGX-1!”

OpenAI and Nvidia did not explain what exactly the supercomputer would be used for. Nvidia announced plans for the machine, described as equivalent in power to “250 servers in a box” and costing $129,000, in April. At the time, the company said that universities like MIT, University of California at Berkeley and Stanford would get access to the supercomputers.

Nvidia has marketed the DGX-1 as a supercomputer built to specifically handle a trendy artificial intelligence technique called deep learning, which has been adopted by in recent years by companies like Google and Facebook. For example, they have used deep learning to train computers to recognize objects in photographs.

Nvidia has been benefiting from a current boom in artificial intelligence and virtual reality technologies with its lineup of computer chips known as GPUs that can power both technologies. In August, Nvidia reported that it had $1.43 billion in second quarter revenue, a 24% year-over-year increase.

“Strong demand for our new Pascal-generation GPUs and surging interest in deep learning drove record results,” Huang said in a statement at the time.

In June, OpenAI said that one of its goals involves building an “off-the-shelf” robot and releasing its blueprints for other companies and organizations to manufacture.

Last week, OpenAI research scientist Ian Goodfellow explained on the question and answer website Quora that both Musk and OpenAI backer and Y Combinator president Sam Altman were “quite involved” with the non-profit and that “both are in the office each week.”

In June, OpenAI released some results of its artificial intelligence research into what’s known as unsupervised learning, which generally refers to the ability of computers to learn from so-called unlabeled data that have not been refined by humans.


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