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Microsoft acquires Semantic Machines, advancing the state of conversational AI 2018.05.21

Redmond, Wash., USA - May 20, 2018 - AI researchers have made great strides in recent years, but we are still at the beginning of teaching computers to understand the full context of human communication. Most of today's bots and intelligent assistants respond to simple commands and queries, such as giving a weather report, playing a song or sharing a reminder, but aren't able to understand meaning or carry on conversations. For rich and effective communication, intelligent assistants need to be able to have a natural dialogue instead of just responding to commands. We call this "conversational AI."

Team members from Semantic Machines.
Photo courtesy of Microsoft / Semantic Machines
 

Redmond, Wash., USA - May 20, 2018

By David Ku
CVP and chief technology officer of Microsoft AI & Research



AI researchers have made great strides in recent years, but we are still at the beginning of teaching computers to understand the full context of human communication.

Most of today’s bots and intelligent assistants respond to simple commands and queries, such as giving a weather report, playing a song or sharing a reminder, but aren’t able to understand meaning or carry on conversations.

A user tries out the new functionality in XiaoIce, Microsoft’s social chatbot in China.
Photo courtesy of Microsoft
 
For rich and effective communication, intelligent assistants need to be able to have a natural dialogue instead of just responding to commands.

We call this “conversational AI.”

Microsoft researchers from the Speech & Dialogue research group include, from back left, Wayne Xiong, Geoffrey Zweig, Xuedong Huang, Dong Yu, Frank Seide, Mike Seltzer, Jasha Droppo and Andreas Stolcke.
October 13, 2016
Photo courtesy of Microsoft / Dan DeLong
 
We are excited to announce today that we have acquired Semantic Machines Inc., a Berkeley, California-based company that has developed a revolutionary new approach to building conversational AI.

http://www.semanticmachines.com/  


Photo courtesy of Microsoft
 
Their work uses the power of machine learning to enable users to discover, access and interact with information and services in a much more natural way, and with significantly less effort.

Photo courtesy of Microsoft
 
The company is led by many pioneers in conversational AI, including technology entrepreneur Dan Roth and two of the most prominent and innovative natural language AI researchers in the world, UC Berkeley professor Dan Klein and Stanford University professor Percy Liang, as well as former Apple chief speech scientist Larry Gillick.

http://www.semanticmachines.com/team  


Photo courtesy of Microsoft
 
Microsoft has driven research and breakthroughs in the fundamental building blocks of conversational AI, such as speech recognition and natural language understanding, for more than two decades.


https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/research-area/human-language-technologies/  

https://blogs.microsoft.com/ai/historic-achievement-microsoft-researchers-reach-human-parity-conversational-speech-recognition/  

The goal has been to expand our vision of computers all around us to a world where they could see, hear talk and understand as humans.

Photo courtesy of Microsoft
 
In 2016, we took another big step toward realizing this vision of conversational computing with the introduction of a framework for developing bots and the release of pre-built Cognitive Services for infusing speech recognition and natural language understanding into intelligent assistants.

Today’s commercial natural language systems like Siri, Cortana, and Google Now only understand commands, not conversations.
The problem is, people can’t express complex ideas with commands; a dialog is needed to communicate effectively.
Semantic Machines is developing technology that goes beyond understanding commands, to understanding conversations.
Our Conversational AI represents a powerful new paradigm, enabling computers to communicate, collaborate, understand our goals, and accomplish tasks.
Photo courtesy of Semantic Machines
 
Today, there are more than 1 million developers using our Microsoft Cognitive Services and more than 300,000 developers using our Azure Bot Service, all helping to make computing more conversational
.

https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/cognitive-services/  

https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/bot-service/  

We are further developing our work in conversational AI with our digital assistant Cortana, as well as with social chatbots like XiaoIce.

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/cortana  

XiaoIce has had more than 30 billion conversations, averaging up to 30 minutes each, with 200 million users across platforms in China, Japan, the United States, India and Indonesia.

Together, the Azure Bot Service and Language Understanding service enable developers to create conversational interfaces for various scenarios like banking, travel, and entertainment.
Photo courtesy of Microsoft
 
With XiaoIce and Cortana, we’ve made breakthroughs in speech recognition and more recently become the first to add full-duplex voice sense to a conversational AI system, allowing people to carry on a conversation naturally.


https://blogs.microsoft.com/ai/xiaoice-full-duplex/  


This Informational Bot can answer questions defined in a knowledge set or FAQ using Cognitive Services QnA Maker and answer more open-ended questions using Azure Search.
Photo courtesy of Microsoft
 
With the acquisition of Semantic Machines, we will establish a conversational AI center of excellence in Berkeley to push forward the boundaries of what is possible in language interfaces.

Azure Bot Service can be easily combined with Language Understanding to build powerful enterprise productivity bots, allowing organizations to streamline common work activities by integrating external systems, such as Office 365 calendar, customer cases stored in Dynamics CRM and much more.
Photo courtesy of Microsoft
 
Combining Semantic Machines’ technology with Microsoft’s own AI advances, we aim to deliver powerful, natural and more productive user experiences that will take conversational computing to a new level.

We’re excited to bring the Semantic Machines team and their technology to Microsoft.

For more information on Semantic Machines,


visit  http://www.semanticmachines.com/


Photo courtesy of Microsoft
 

Source: Microsoft News Center

https://news.microsoft.com  



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Editor-in-Chief of ASTROMAN magazine: Roman Wojtala, Ph.D.


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