Microsoft Acquires Maluuba to Strengthen Natural Language Processing Abilities

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Microsoft acquired the Canadian artificial intelligence (AI) startup Maluuba in January 2017. The main purpose of acquisition is to help Microsoft in developing artificial intelligence with improved language understanding and communication skills.

Microsoft is focused on strengthening its AI capabilities. Although it is yet to release an artificially intelligent voice assistant such as the Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. In September 2016, the company collaborated with Facebook, Google, Amazon, and IBM to launch a nonprofit called the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society or the Partnership on AI for advancing understanding of AI for the general public.

As a part of acquisition of Maluuba, Microsoft will have an edge in terms of natural language processing. The startup has developed a deep learning research lab for natural language understanding. It also works on improving communication capabilities between humans and machines. The acquisition might help in improving Microsoft’s own voice assistant, Cortana. “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 exactly in line with ours. I’m incredibly excited about the scenarios that this acquisition could make possible in conversational AI,” said Harry Shum, executive vice president of Microsoft’s artificial intelligence and research group.

Conversational AI in this context could refer only to Cortana, since it is currently Microsoft’s leading voice-based application. But compared to other voice assistants, Microsoft’s offering is pretty basic since it mostly combines search algorithm and voice commands. With the acquisition, Microsoft’s AI capabilities may get a major boost, leading to the creation of a smarter Cortana sometime in the near future.

According to Natural Language Processing Market report published by Coherent Market Insights, Virtual assistants enable customers to communicate with organizations through an online chat box in vernacular language and helps customer experience. In addition to this, NPL helps organization to increase their analytical capabilities. “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,” Shum said. “This is just one of hundreds of scenarios we could imagine as Maluuba pushes the state-of-the-art technology of machine literacy.”

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