Microsoft acquires Semantic Machines for conversational AI starter
Microsoft has bought California-based Semantic Machines as it seeks to improve its technology in conversational artificial intelligence (AI).
According to Microsoft, Semantic Machines uses machine learning to enable users to access and interact with information and services in a “much more natural way, and with significantly less effort”.
David Ku, CVP and chief technology officer of Microsoft AI & Research, says: “AI researchers have made great strides in recent years, but we are still at the beginning of teaching computers to understand the full context of human communication. Most of today’s bots and intelligent assistants respond to simple commands and queries, such as giving a weather report, playing a song or sharing a reminder, but aren’t able to understand meaning or carry on conversations.”
Semantic Machines is led by people with plenty of experience in conversational AI, including technology entrepreneur Dan Roth and two natural language AI researchers, UC Berkeley professor Dan Klein and Stanford University professor Percy Liang, as well as former Apple chief speech scientist Larry Gillick.
Financial details were not disclosed but with the acquisition of Semantic Machines, Microsoft will establish a conversational AI centre of excellence in Berkeley, California, to combine the duo’s knowledge.
Such a deal, including Microsoft’s experiences, extends well beyond fintech of course. The tech titan says it has been involved in conversational AI, such as speech recognition and natural language understanding, for more than two decades.
As a reminder, in 2016, it unveiled a framework for developing bots and the release of pre-built Cognitive Services for infusing speech recognition and natural language understanding into intelligent assistants.
Microsoft says at present there are more than one million developers using its Microsoft Cognitive Services and more than 300,000 developers using its Azure Bot Service.
It also has its digital assistant Cortana and social chatbot XiaoIce. The latter has had more than 30 billion conversations, averaging up to 30 minutes each, with 200 million users across platforms in China, Japan, the US, India and Indonesia.