Microsoft this week announced that it has acquired an AI specialist to beef up its AI (artificial intelligence) portfolio, which includes Azure Bot, Microsoft Cognitive Services, and Cortana. The software giant has acquired Semantic Machines for an undisclosed amount. The deal is expected to boost the software company’s digital assistant Cortana as well as the Azure Bot Services.
Founded in August 2014, Semantic Machines uses machine learning technology to make bots and digital assistants respond more like humans. The company is led by two known pioneers in the conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI) arena, UC Berkeley professor Dan Klein and former Apple chief scientist Larry Gillick.
According to Microsoft AI and research CTO David Ku, the deal will help Microsoft compete with conversational computing initiatives from Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, Samsung’s Bixby, and Amazon’s Alexa.
Before its deal with Microsoft, Semantic Machines managed to raise around $8.5 million in funding and another $12.3 million in 2015. The company’s investors include General Catalyst Partners and Bain Capital Ventures.
The Redmond-based company is currently working on the fundamental building blocks of conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI), which include natural language understanding and speech recognition. The main goal is to expand its vision of computers.
In 2016, Microsoft took its first big step in the conversational AI arena with the introduction and release of pre-built Cognitive Services, a framework for developing bots infusing speech recognition into intelligent digital assistants. Currently, there are more than 1 million developers using the company’s Cognitive Services and more than 300,000 developers for the Microsoft Azure Bot Service.
Microsoft is not alone in boosting it\’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. Archrival Google is also working on a similar AI technology. In fact, the Mountain View-based search company has recently introduced its Google Duplex, which allows Google Assistant to make a call or even book some appointments on behalf of Google users.