On Sunday, Microsoft announced that it has acquired Semantic Machines, a California-based conversational artificial intelligence (AI) startup.
Founded in 2014, Semantic Machines uses machine learning to build conversational AI interfaces which allows users to communicate naturally with computers. The conversational AI technology of Semantic is currently powering many e-commerce websites, social networks, and devices like Siri and Google Now.
The commercial natural language systems like Siri, Cortana and Google Now only understand the commands rather than conversations. However, it is sometimes difficult to express ideas with commands. Semantic Machines is working to develop technology using which the language systems will be able to understand conversations.
With years of expertise in speech recognition and natural language understanding, Microsoft now aims to expand its vision and provide natural and more productive user experiences.
Microsoft already delivers conversational AI services like Microsoft Cognitive services, and Azure Bot service which help developers make computing more conversational.
“We are further developing our work in conversational AI with our digital assistant Cortana, as well as with social chatbots like XiaoIce. 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,” wrote David Ku, CVP and chief technology officer of Microsoft AI & Research, in a blog post.
“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.”
This is Microsoft’s further step in conversational AI. At the Microsoft Build 2018, the tech giant had demonstrated the integration of its Cortana with Amazon’s Alexa.
With the acquisition of Semantic Machines, Microsoft will establish a conversational AI center of excellence in Berkeley, the city which holds the headquarter of Semantic Machines. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.