Microsoft on Friday announced the acquisition of Maluuba, a deep-learning and natural language-processing startup that helps computers communicate more effectively.
Based in Montreal, Maluuba uses deep learning and reinforcement-learning to improve a computer’s ability to understand what it is processing. The goal is to build machines that can think like people, including making decisions on their own and comprehending when they need to acquire new information to fill any knowledge gaps.
Cue the Westworld comparisons.
Microsoft has gobbled up a number of AI-minded startups recently to compete with the likes of Google and Salesforce, including Genee and SwiftKey. Last September the company launched a new AI department, the Microsoft Artificial Intelligence and Research Group, to expand its efforts in the field.
“Imagine a future where, instead of frantically searching through your organization’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,” writes
Harry Shum, executive vice president of Microsoft Artificial Intelligence and Research Group, writes in a blog post announcing the acquisition that marketers will be able to communicate with an AI agent that can answer questions in a "company security-compliant manner by having a deeper understanding of the contents of your organization’s documents and emails, instead of simply retrieving a document by keyword matching."
Maluuba's founders note that understanding human language is "an extremely complex task and, ultimately, the holy grail in the field of AI" in a blog post announcing the acquisition.
Microsoft and Mulaaba both expressed how their ultimate goals align, and how they want to make AI more accessible and useful to the general public.
As part of the Maluuba acquisition, Microsoft has also gained the talents of AI expert Yoshua Bengio. Bengio is a professor of computer science and operations research at the University of Montreal and leads the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms. He previously served as an advisor for Maluuba and will be joining Microsoft in the same capacity.
Maluuba co-founders, Sam Pasupalak and Kaheer Suleman, will also become a part of Shum's organization.