Microsoft has been a leader in artificial intelligence research for years, even if it sometimes gets overlooked as people ogle research labs at Google (plus DeepMind), Facebook, Baidu and even OpenAI. Lest we forget that, the company made a slew of AI-related announcement on Wednesday
, highlighted by the creation the new Microsoft Research AI group led by Eric Horvitz. That group will focus on a wide range of technologies that includes robotics, deep learning, reinforcement learning, conversational systems and more.
Bloomberg positions the new group
as an attempt to compete for mindshare with the research groups at the aforementioned companies and institutions, and that’s probably fair. As I noted above, Microsoft has been doing machine learning research for years and over the past few years has made some meaningful contributions to emerging AI fields such as deep learning. It also has released quite a few AI products and open source tools. But it
The idea behind the new group appears to be that by bringing researchers from across the company’s various divisions under one roof, they can work collaboratively and produce more meaningful results. Specifically, it will place an emphasis general AI systems that can solve a broad range of tasks, and complex or multi-faceted tasks. Hopefully, they can also generate big headlines and attract talented researchers, which are still in high demand—especially as companies such as Uber, Tesla and others also start ramping up their AI efforts.
(As an aside, though, Microsoft might consider streamlining its various research efforts. Microsoft Research AI is being compared with Google DeepMind, although that’s an analogy I might have saved for the Maluuba
team that Microsoft acquired earlier this year
. The new team is also a subset of the 5,000-person Microsoft AI and Research Group that the company announced in September
, led by Harry Shum. It’s a lot to parse.)
In other news, Microsoft also announced: