Microsoft Merges Research, Cortana And Bing Divisions To Create AI Arm

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Redmond is looking to push AI technology into more of its services and has created a fourth group at the company

Microsoft is consolidating its artificial intelligence (AI) division with other parts of its business, merging the Bing, Cortana and Research arms into a 5,000 strong AI focused unit.

Veteran Microsoft executive Harry Shum will head up the AI group, which will become the fourth engineering division alongside Redmond’s Windows, Office, and Azure departments.

The ambitions of the group are to push AI into a wider range of Microsoft products and services, ranging from infrastructure through to apps and smart agents.

“We are creating tools to make it easier for busy professionals to remember their commitments, family members from other countries to talk to each other in spite of language barriers, and multitasking smartphone users to send texts more quickly,” said Harry Shum, executive vice president at the new Microsoft AI and Research Group.

“And at the same time, we also are providing businesses with the tools they need to incorporate intelligence into every product they build and business decision they make.”

Microsoft AI

Ociacia 2 robot headThe AI and Research Group is essentially a reaction to the growing use of AI in the business and consumer technology markets.

“Today, AI is shifting the computer science research supply chain and blurring lines between research and product. End-to-end innovation in AI will not come from isolated research labs alone, but from the combination of at-scale production workloads together with deep technology advancements in algorithms, systems and experiences,” said Shum.

“The new group will provide greater opportunity to accelerate our innovation in AI, and to enable Microsoft to create truly intelligent systems and products for our customers.”

The new division has been spun-out of the Microsoft Research arm, created by Bill Gates 25 years ago, which explored the use of AI for image recognition, natural language processing, and the use of deep learning techniques.

To date, Microsoft has added AI smarts into its Skype Translator, Cortana virtual assistant, and XiaoIce chatbot services. With the new division Microsoft hopes to “democratise AI for the world”, which it will achieve by essentially by bringing smart software to more of its products.

Microsoft’s AI work has seen it end up in hot water, particularly after its Tay chatbot began tweeting offensive messages.

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