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Google's Internet-Beaming Balloon Gets a New Pilot: AI

By Wired

September 29, 2016

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Google's Project Loon has turned to artificial intelligence (AI) to navigate Peruvian airspace as part of the company's goal to use balloons to beam the Internet from the stratosphere down to people on Earth where access is otherwise unavailable.

Google reports a balloon launched into the stratosphere over Peru stayed there for 98 days.

The company says it is using AI because a more complex navigation system would be too heavy and expansive for the task at hand.

Tapping into data collected on more than 17 million kilometers of balloon flights, Project Loon used a simpler form of machine learning called Gaussian processes to predict the course the balloon should take, when the balloon should move up, and when it should descend. The predictions are not perfect, so Google also uses reinforcement learning. As a result, the navigation system can collect additional information on the forces the balloon is confronted with and use the data to hone its behavior.

Google researchers note the techniques developed via Project Loon can apply to robotics and other tasks.

From Wired
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