Microsoft Corp. announced on Thursday that it will be expanding its artificial intelligence efforts by launching the Microsoft AI and Research Group. The organization, which will be led by Harry Shum, will bring together more than 5,000 computer scientists and engineers.
“We live in a time when digital technology is transforming our lives, businesses and the world, but also generating an exponential growth in data and information,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a statement. “At Microsoft, we are focused on empowering both people and organizations, by democratizing access to intelligence to help solve our most pressing challenges. To do this, we are infusing AI into everything we deliver across our computing platforms and experiences.”
Microsoft, which is already involved in researching AI technology with personal assistant Cortana and a handful of chatbot projects, will focus on four areas with its new organization: agents, applications, services and infrastructure.
“We are on the cusp of a paradigm shift in computing that is unlike anything we have seen in decades, wrote Nadella in an internal email to employees, acquired by GeekWire. “This will lead to artificial intelligence (AI) being infused broadly into our computing platforms and experiences. Advanced algorithms, hyper-scale compute capacity, and the ability to work across massive data sets are what enable us to drive this change in everything we do for customers.”
The new group will bring together Microsoft Research, the Information Platform Group, Ambient Computing and Robotics teams, and the Applications and Services Group behind Cortana and Bing.
“End-to-end innovation in AI will not come from isolated research labs alone, but from the combination of at-scale production workloads together with deep technology advancements in algorithms, systems and experiences,” Shum writes in a blog post. “The new group will provide greater opportunity to accelerate our innovation in AI, and to enable Microsoft to create truly intelligent systems and products for our customers.”
News of the research group comes a day after the announcement that Microsoft is one of five companies that co-founded an artificial intelligence partnership that aims to help advance public understanding of AI, set up standards for advances made in the field, and create an open platform for discussion. Called Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society, the organization brings together four other tech giants: Amazon, Facebook, Google and IBM.
The group claims it won’t be lobbying the government. Instead, it cites on its website that it plans to “study and formulate best practices on AI technologies, to advance the public’s understanding of AI, and to serve as an open platform for discussion and engagement about AI and its influences on people and society.” The board of the organization will include both corporate and noncorporate members, and they hope to include “academics, non-profits and specialists in policy and ethics.”
“We’re excited about this historic collaboration on AI and its influences on people and society,” said Eric Horvitz, Microsoft Research technical fellow and managing director, in a statement. “We see great value ahead with harnessing AI advances in numerous areas, including health, education, transportation, public welfare, and personal empowerment. We’re extremely pleased with how early discussions among colleagues blossomed into a promising long-term collaboration. Beyond folks in industry, we’re thrilled to have other stakeholders at the table, including colleagues in ethics, law, policy, and the public at large. We look forward to working arm-in-arm on best practices and on such important topics as ethics, privacy, transparency, bias, inclusiveness, and safety.”