As part of its bid to make artificial intelligence (AI) ubiquitous, Microsoft has acquired the Montreal-based company Maluuba.
According to Harry Shum, executive vice president of Microsoft’s artificial intelligence and research group, Maluuba boasts one of the world’s most impressive deep learning research labs for natural language understanding. “Maluuba’s expertise in deep learning and reinforcement learning for question-answering and decision-making systems will help us advance our strategy to democratise AI and to make it accessible and valuable to everyone — consumers, businesses and developers,” he said. “We’ve recently set new milestones for speech and image recognition using deep learning techniques, and with this acquisition we are, as Wayne Gretzky would say, skating to where the puck will be next — machine reading and writing.”
Maluuba’s vision is to advance toward a more general artificial intelligence by creating literate machines that can think, reason and communicate like humans – a vision that mirrors that of Microsoft. Maluuba’s team is addressing some of the fundamental problems in language understanding by modelling some of the innate capabilities of the human brain, from memory and common sense reasoning to curiosity and decision making.
“Imagine a future where, instead of frantically searching through your organisation’s directory, documents or emails to find the top tax-law experts in your company, for example, you could communicate with an AI agent that would leverage Maluuba’s machine comprehension capabilities to immediately respond to your request,” Shum says. “The agent would be able to answer your question in a company security-compliant manner by having a deeper understanding of the contents of your organisation’s documents and emails, instead of simply retrieving a document by keyword matching, which happens today. This is just one of hundreds of scenarios we could imagine as Maluuba pushes the state-of-the-art technology of machine literacy.”
“Microsoft is an excellent match for our company,” said an official Maluuba press release. “Their ambitious vision of democratising AI to empower every person and every organisation on the planet fundamentally aligns with how we see our technology being used. Microsoft provides us with the opportunity to deliver our work to the billions of consumer and enterprise users that can benefit from the advent of truly intelligent machines. In addition, Microsoft’s immense technical resources including back-end infrastructure (i.e. Microsoft’s Azure and GPU infrastructure) and engineering talent will help us accelerate our pace in conducting research and bringing solutions to market. In short, our new partnership enables us to advance more quickly toward our vision of creating literate machines.”