MICROSOFT SPELLS OUT ITS PLANS FOR SEMANTIC MACHINES
Above: Semantic Machines team at the University of California, Berkeley
Image Credit: Semantic Machines
Microsoft announced Sunday it acquired conversational AI startup Semantic Machines, a company whose staff includes former Siri chief scientist Larry Gillick and researchers such as Percy Liang, who helped create Google Assistant.
Few details were provided in a blog post to announce the acquisition, but today Microsoft AI and Research Group chief technology officer David Ku spoke with VentureBeat to share how the acquisition will improve Cortana, help developers make interoperable voice apps, influence products across Microsoft, and plans to open the first conversational AI center for excellence at the University of California, Berkeley.
How Semantic Machines will change Cortana
Founded in August 2014 in Newton, Massachusetts, Semantic Machines works in areas like speech recognition and natural language processing to develop AI that can understand more than the simple commands common today like “Alexa, play music” or “Siri, what’s in the news?”
Semantic Machines tech is now going into a variety of Microsoft services, and once they’re available, Cortana should be much smarter, nimble, and capable of carrying out more tasks with fewer words, Ku said.
In time, these systems will learn from a user’s habits.
“From an end user standpoint we would create new skills using the Semantic Machines approach that could handle a lot more language variations so you can for example issue a command then go back and say ‘No, I meant don’t send it to my boss, send it to my boss’ boss’ and have the system adaptively learn from context so you don’t have to recreate everything from scratch so from the user standpoint much more resilient and adaptable language, understanding, and actions,” Ku told VentureBeat in an interview.
Users of Microsoft’s bots like Xiaoice in China and Rinna in Japan may experience similar improvements.
Recent advances from Microsoft and Semantic Machines’ work in multiturn dialogue may also help the Cortana company keep up with evolving assistants from competitors.
The acquisition enables Microsoft to compete with evolving AI assistants from other brands, such as Samsung’s Bixby 2.0 due out later this year, and Google Assistant, who recently introduced a feature enables users to make multiple commands in a single sentence.
Conversational AI center
A Microsoft spokesperson declined to share the financial terms of the deal, but they did say it acquired Semantic Machines for both its technology and its team. That gives the company a presence both near Boston and in Berkeley, close to many researchers with expertise in advanced dialogue and conversational AI.
The center will focus on attracting research talent and leveraging the reputation of staff members like Dan Klein at UC Berkeley and Percy Liang at Stanford University.
“The intent is to build out more and more of this capacity for advanced research and product capabilities in Berkeley, tapping into the Berkeley ecosystem and Bay Area,” Ku said. “We want to build out this talent base that can start to apply to push the state of the art in conversational AI both for building products but also advancing kind of the state of the art.”
The conversational AI center for excellence will work alongside other conversational AI initiatives from Microsoft like the Cortana Research division, Cortana Intelligence Institute opened in February at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, and the Microsoft AI and Research Group in Redmond, Washington.
How Semantic Machines will help developers make voice apps
Whereas today Cortana voice apps or skills are created using the Azure Bot Service or Microsoft Bot Framework, in the future, when Semantic Machines tech is integrated into Microsoft products, developers will be able to teach voice apps to function by learning from example.
“What Semantic Machines is really talking about is a new approach where we could use machine learning to map end-to-end learning that starts from the natural language utterance all the way to the actions that are performed — the API calls, the tasks that are performed in response — and to do that in a way that allows us to use machine learning to teach the system through what we call demonstrations,” Ku said. “From the developer standpoint of having to create these skills it would be in which we would have much less engineering effort because you can do all this mapping to actions and APIs learned through machine learning.”
In addition to Cortana and Xiaoice, Microsoft plans to bring Semantic Machines tech to a range of products including the Azure Bot Service, Microsoft Cognitive Services, Microsoft’s AI solution for customer service, and other conversational computing technology for enterprise customers.
Thanks for your own labor on this web page. Debby enjoys engaging in investigations and it’s really simple to grasp why. My partner and i notice all regarding the lively manner you convey advantageous tricks on the web blog and welcome contribution from other people on this concept and our own child is without question starting to learn a lot of things. Take pleasure in the rest of the new year. You’re the one performing a good job.
When you think about it, that’s got to be the right anwers.
Thank you so much for providing individuals with an extraordinarily memorable possiblity to read from this blog. It’s always very terrific plus jam-packed with fun for me and my office acquaintances to search your website not less than thrice in a week to read the latest guides you have. And indeed, I am just at all times motivated for the astounding techniques you serve. Selected 2 tips on this page are really the most effective I have ever had.
I simply desired to thank you so much once again. I am not sure what I would’ve accomplished in the absence of those advice provided by you directly on such a industry. It has been a real difficult condition in my view, however , looking at the specialized strategy you processed that made me to leap with gladness. I’m happier for the assistance and then expect you are aware of a powerful job you are always putting in teaching most people all through your web blog. Probably you have never encountered all of us.
I wanted to jot down a quick note so as to say thanks to you for some of the remarkable ideas you are giving on this website. My time-consuming internet search has at the end of the day been compensated with good quality insight to talk about with my company. I would suppose that we visitors actually are very much endowed to exist in a superb place with very many awesome individuals with interesting techniques. I feel quite grateful to have seen the weblog and look forward to so many more cool minutes reading here. Thanks a lot once more… Read more »
I am writing to let you be aware of what a exceptional discovery my friend’s girl went through reading through yuor web blog. She picked up plenty of things, including what it’s like to have an amazing teaching heart to make certain people with ease know chosen impossible topics. You actually surpassed our own desires. I appreciate you for offering such beneficial, trusted, revealing and even unique tips about this topic to Sandra.
I actually wanted to post a small remark in order to express gratitude to you for all of the magnificent secrets you are giving on this website. My time consuming internet lookup has now been rewarded with reliable insight to write about with my companions. I would point out that most of us readers actually are really fortunate to live in a perfect community with many brilliant professionals with great advice. I feel extremely lucky to have seen your site and look forward to really more amazing moments reading here. Thanks once again for everything.
I simply wished to appreciate you yet again. I do not know the things I might have achieved without the actual ideas contributed by you over such a situation. Entirely was the frightful dilemma in my position, but being able to see a new skilled way you handled it forced me to jump for fulfillment. I will be grateful for the service and in addition wish you realize what a great job you are always doing educating the rest by way of a web site. Most probably you haven’t come across any of us.
I wanted to draft you that bit of note just to say thanks the moment again for your personal pretty views you have featured on this website. It’s so incredibly open-handed with you to grant extensively just what many of us would’ve made available as an e-book to help make some bucks on their own, primarily seeing that you might well have done it in case you wanted. Those thoughts as well served to become fantastic way to know that many people have the identical interest similar to my personal own to learn a little more with regards to this… Read more »