Microsoft to acquire artificial intelligence startup Bonsai

Microsoft to acquire artificial intelligence startup Bonsai
Acquisition will allow the companies to build ‘brains’ for autonomous systems

Elly Yates-Roberts |

Microsoft is to acquire the artificial intelligence (AI) startup company Bonsai in a move that will allow the companies to build ‘brains’ for autonomous systems.

“We are excited to take another major step forward in our vision to make it easier for developers and subject matter experts to build the ‘brains’— machine learning model for autonomous systems of all kinds with the signing of an agreement to acquire Bonsai,” said Gurdeep Pall, corporate vice president at Microsoft, in a recent blog post.

Bonsai uses machine teaching that abstracts the low-level mechanics of machine learning, to allow subject matter experts to specify and train autonomous systems to accomplish tasks.

The company is building a general-purpose, learning platforms for enterprises leveraging industrial control systems including robotics, energy, HVAC, manufacturing and autonomous systems in general.

Bonsai’s platform, combined with Microsoft’s simulation tools and reinforcement learning, becomes an AI toolchain for building autonomous systems for control and calibration tasks. This toolchain will comprise Azure Machine Learning running on the Azure Cloud with GPUs and Brainwave, and models built with it will be deployed and managed in Azure IoT.

“What I find exciting is that Bonsai has achieved some remarkable breakthroughs with their approach that will have a profound impact on AI development,” added Pall. “Last autumn, they established a new reinforcement learning benchmark for programming industrial control systems. Using a robotics task to demonstrate the achievement, the platform successfully trained a simulated robotic arm to grasp and stack blocks on top of one another by breaking down the task into simpler sub-concepts.”

Earlier this year, Bonsai extended its deep reinforcement learning’s capabilities beyond traditional game play to real-world applications. Using Bonsai’s AI Platform and machine teaching, subject matter experts from Siemens, with no AI expertise, trained an AI model to autocalibrate a computer numerical control machine 30 times faster than the traditional approach.

“We’re really confident this unique marriage of research, novel approach and technology will have a tremendous effect toward removing barriers and accelerating the current state of AI development and we look forward to having Bonsai and their team join us to help realise this collective vision,” added Pall.

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