DIU, Google bring AI to cancer detection

Google has joined up with the DOD to use AI to better detect cancer in service members and veterans.
A window at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. (REUTERS / Stephen Lam)

The Defense Innovation Unit has partnered with Google to bring artificial intelligence to cancer screenings done at select military and veterans hospitals.

The deal is supported by the Joint AI Center, which will provide funding and technical expertise as Google Cloud’s tech is integrated into the center’s Warfighter Health initiative. The company will provide augmented reality microscopes with cancer detection tools for research purposes only, at least at first.

The idea is to help doctors see potential cancer cells with the assistance of AI algorithms that have been training on large datasets.

“To effectively treat cancer, speed and accuracy are critical,” Mike Daniels, vice president at Google Cloud for global public sector, said in a statement. “We are partnering with DIU to provide our machine learning and artificial intelligence technology to help frontline healthcare practitioners learn about capabilities that can improve the lives of our military men and women and their families.”


A cancer diagnosis can be a tricky thing. The VA estimated that roughly 5% of outpatient diagnoses have errors, which equates to about 12 million patients each year. By training machine learning systems to recognize the patterns of cancer, Google hopes to reduce the error rate.

The company says the data they used to train its system was “de-identified to remove personal health information and any personally identifiable information.” Google has run into data-privacy issues, with the company’s “Project Nightingale” including sensitive, private health care data from patients such as their name and date of birth, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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