In its quest to bolster its artificial intelligence (AI) portfolio, Microsoft has acquired Semantic Machines, a US-based conversational AI company.
David Ku, CVP and CTO of research and AI at Microsoft, said that most bots today, such as Siri and Cortana, are able to understand basic commands, but nothing more complex. "For rich and effective communication, intelligent assistants need to be able to have a natural dialogue instead of just responding to commands," Ku explained, adding that this was called ‘conversational AI.'
Semantic Machines was founded by a team of AI veterans, including Larry Gillick, former chief speech scientist for Siri at Apple. The company claims to enable more natural interactions between humans and computers, and that its developing technology will understand conversational nuances.
Ku stated that this acquisition will integrate conversational AI into Microsoft's own AI services, such as Cortana and Azure Bot Service. "Combining Semantic Machines' technology with Microsoft's own AI advances, we aim to deliver powerful, natural and more productive user experiences that will take conversational computing to a new level," he said.
The acquisition comes on the heels of rival Google's unveiling of its own conversation AI assistant, which perfectly mimics the speech patterns of a human.
According to Ku, Semantic Machines' acquisition furthers the tech giant's goal of creating computers that can "see, hear, talk and understand" as humans. This will be integrated into the company's digital assistant Cortana, along with its chatbot XiaoIce, which has conducted over 30 billion conversations with people across Asia and the US.
"[Semantic Machines'] work uses the power of machine learning to enable users to discover, access and interact with information and services in a much more natural way, and with significantly less effort," Ku added.
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