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Microsoft clubs its Research, Information Platform, Bing and Cortana divisions to intensify its work in AI

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Continuing to stress its commitment to Artificial Intelligence and research and development in the field, Microsoft has announced the formation of a brand new Microsoft AI and Research Group.  The announcement comes barely a day after a group of some of the largest corporate entities in the world including Google, Facebook and Microsoft professed that they were joining hands to set up a Partnership on AI.

The newly formed will group will have almost 5,000 engineers and scientists who will be headed by Executive Vice President Harry Shum — a 2 decade Microsoft veteran, with vast experience in the field. Microsoft is combining a bunch of departments and teams that rely heavily upon AI, to form this unified team.

The Microsoft AI and Research group will also consist of teams that have hitherto been working upon Cortana, Bing, and Ambient Computing and Robotics teams. Together, the group will represent Microsoft’s presence in several futuristic fields such as AI product engineering, basic and applied research labs and New Experiences and Technologies (NExT).

While making the announcement, the company reiterated its commitment to AI research and development, stating that it was its aim to introduce new ways to solve some of the society’s toughest challenges.

Speaking on the topic, Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft, said,

At Microsoft, we are focused on empowering both people and organizations, by democratizing access to intelligence to help solve our most pressing challenges. To do this, we are infusing AI into everything we deliver across our computing platforms and experiences.

Commenting on the formation of the new group, Shum, newly appointed executive vice president of the Microsoft AI and Research Group, said,

We will significantly expand our efforts to empower people and organizations to achieve more with our tools, our software and services, and our powerful, global-scale cloud computing capabilities.

The company is taking a four pronged approach to what it is calling as its attempt to democratize AI. While we are not sure what that entails, I would guess that it has to do something with bringing AI to the masses in a way that expands its scope in solving all sorts of problems. Meanwhile, here is how Microsoft’s newly formed research group will be working 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.

Ambitious goals certainly, but Microsoft is as capable of realizing them as anyone. Meanwhile, corporations the world over appear to be getting very serious about AI as a field in its own right. Forming a dedicated group of this magnitude will certainly give Microsoft and edge over other companies, however, we can expect other corporations — who haven’t already done so — to follow suit in the near future.

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