Palmer Luckey's Anduril Industries has won a contract on the Pentagon's controversial AI program, Project Maven, reports The Intercept. Since founding the company in 2017, Luckey has focused on the defense industry, building advanced systems that could be used for border surveillance. Project Maven is a controversial artificial intelligence program that uses machine learning to sort through millions of hours of drone footage to help systems distinguish people from their surroundings. The project would help reduce the burden on human analysts and improve the intelligence that's captured in cameras. The project's goal is to get better information to military officers, with the idea that with better decisions, there's less of a change of mistakes that result in civilian casualties.
Google may have backed out of the US military's Project Maven, but that doesn't mean other tech companies are unwilling to participate. The Intercept has learned that Oculus Rift co-founder Palmer Luckey's defense company, Anduril, won a contract to support the drone AI initiative in 2018. The firm will also support the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, according to newly obtained documents. While there aren't specifics around what that contract would entail, Project Maven relies on machine learning to detect people in drone videos and provide more effective intelligence data. Anduril is most commonly known for its existing system, Lattice.
The whistle of a stiff and constant wind cuts through a silence that gives no hint of the hostilities, both physical and political, that animate these borderlands. Palmer Luckey--yes, that Palmer Luckey, the 25-year-old entrepreneur who founded the virtual reality company Oculus, sold it to Facebook, and then left Facebook in a haze of political controversy--hands me a Samsung Gear VR headset. Slipping it over my eyes, I am instantly immersed in a digital world that simulates the exact view I had just been enjoying in real life. In the virtual valley below is a glowing green square with text that reads PERSON 98%. Luckey directs me to tilt my head downward, toward the box, and suddenly an image pops up over the VR rendering.
They spent hours circling the sky, seeking, among other things, surface-to-air missile launchers lurking in the brush. The missiles they found weren't enemy ones. They were props for early test flights of a prototype military drone stuffed with artificial intelligence--the latest product from Anduril, a defense-tech startup founded by Palmer Luckey, the creator of Oculus Rift. The new drone, the Ghost 4, shows the potential for AI in military systems. Luckey says it is the first generation that can perform various reconnaissance missions, including searching an area for enemy hardware or soldiers, under the control of a single person on the ground.
When you hear talk of a border wall, you typically picture an actual, physical construction. The Oculus co-founder and his startup Anduril Industries have been working on a virtual wall -- one complete with cameras, sensors and VR -- with the aim of scoring a US defense contract and providing border security at a fraction of the cost of a physical wall. Luckey discussed plans for this technology last year, but now it's being tested, both officially and unofficially, and it's catching the eye of US officials. Wired reports that Anduril has constructed a prototype of its Lattice system on a ranch in Texas and is also conducting a government-funded test of its technology outside of San Diego. "They said they could provide broader border security for a lower cost," Melissa Ho, managing director of Silicon Valley's Department of Homeland Security office, told Wired.