Microsoft has developed an artificial intelligence-based technology that’s capable of answering questions just like humans. The Redmond giant has also revealed that it is planning to expand the technology, so that it would be skilled enough to handle follow-up questions as well. 

In a recent blog post, Microsoft talked about a new technology it has created that is utilizing AI to read documents and respond to queries about such documents the way humans would. The tech company is crediting a research team at Microsoft Research Asia for developing such advanced AI

So just how human-like is Microsoft’s new AI? The company proudly shared that the model it submitted reached the score of 82.650 on the Stanford Question Answering Dataset (SQuAD) leaderboard. The human performance’s rating on the dataset is 82.304, which means Microsoft’s AI is already very close to the humans’ way of responding to inquiries. 

Having achieved such milestone, Microsoft is now pushing to include the technology on its Bing search engine. This way, consumers can interact with Bing via the Cortana intelligent assistant and converse with the technology in a manner that’s very similar to how humans communicate with each other. 

Microsoft is doing away with how current AIs simply provide a list of links in response to many questions. The company wants its Bing search engine to be able to respond to users with plainspoken answers or multiple sources of information. This explains why the Redmond has made a significant investment in machine reading comprehension.

The ultimate goal is to, of course, provide users with an intuitive experience when they are using computers or services that ultiize Microsoft’s new AI-based technology. With machine reading comprehension, people could retrieve the information they need from lengthy documents and books at a fast rate. 

“[These] would let drivers more easily find the answer they need in a dense car manual, saving time and effort in tense or difficult situations,” Microsoft explained. “These tools also could let doctors, lawyers and other experts more quickly get through the drudgery of things like reading through large documents for specific medical findings or rarified legal precedent.”

Microsoft has already incorporated the model it submitted for the SQuAD leaderboard into Bing. However, the company is working  to improve the technology, so that it would be capable of handling more complex problems, like for instance, follow-up questions. So for example, when one asks “What year was the prime mister of Germany born,” and adds a follow-up: “What city was she born in?” The AI could provide answers to questions very smoothly. 

Despite the milestone, Microsoft Research Asia assistant managing director Ming Zhou admitted that this is just a start of something big for Microsoft’s AI. “Natural language processing is still an area with lots of challenges that we all need to keep investing in and pushing forward,” Zhou said before adding, “This milestone is just a start. ”

Microsoft Microsoft’s new AI technology answers questions like how humans do. Photo: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson