Microsoft Buys Conversational AI Company Semantic Machines

SemanticMachines

In a blog post, Microsoft Corporate Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of AI & Research David Ku announced the acquisition of Berkeley, California-based conversational AI company Semantic Machines. The natural language processing technology developed by Semantic Machines will be integrated into Microsoft’s products like Cortana and the Azure Bot Service.

On its website, Semantic Machines says that existing natural language systems such as Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana and Google Now only understands commands, but not conversations. However, Semantic Machines' technology understands conversations rather than just commands. Some of the most typical commands that digital assistants can handle today include weather reports, music controls, setting up timers and creating reminders. “For rich and effective communication, intelligent assistants need to be able to have a natural dialogue instead of just responding to commands,” said Ku.

Microsoft announces formation of AI and Research Group with over 5000 computer scientists

cortana-microsoft_story

For the last year or so, Microsoft has backed artificial intelligence as "the most important technology on the planet" and has released various products that make use of AI. The company's flagship AI product, Cortana, is available to all Windows 10 users - although its capabilities vary depending on which part of the world you're in. Now, the company will be bringing its artificial intelligence research under one umbrella with the formation of the Microsoft AI and Research Group that will include 5000 computer scientists.

The AI and Research Group will be headed by Microsoft veteran of 20 years, Harry Shum, who has worked with Microsoft Research and Bing prior to this appointment. The group will bring together various related teams such as Information Platform, Cortana and Bing, and Ambient Computing and Robotics teams.

According to Microsoft's post about the announcement, the company will be taking a four-pronged approach to democratize AI:

  • Agents: Harness AI to fundamentally change human and computer interaction through agents such as Microsoft’s digital personal assistant Cortana
  • Applications: Infuse every application, from the photo app on people’s phones to Skype and Office 365, with intelligence
  • Services: Make these same intelligent capabilities that are infused in Microsoft’s apps —cognitive capabilities such as vision and speech, and machine analytics — available to every application developer in the world
  • Infrastructure: Build the world’s most powerful AI supercomputer with Azure and make it available to anyone, to enable people and organizations to harness its power

Currently, there are no announcements regarding any upcoming products, but with the newly formed group we can surely expect to hear more about AI and related products from the software giant in the not-too-distant future.

Source: Microsoft

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