Partnerships / Acquisitions

Microsoft Buys AI Startup Maluuba To Democratize AI

Microsoft announced late last week it is acquiring Maluuba, a Montreal-based company that runs what Microsoft calls one of the world’s most impressive deep-learning research labs for natural language understanding. In a blog post announcing the deal, Microsoft said Maluuba’s expertise in deep learning and reinforcement learning for question-answering and decision-making systems will help to “democratize AI and to make it accessible and valuable to everyone — consumers, businesses and developers.”

Microsoft said the startup’s vision to create literate computers that can think, reason and communicate like humans is in lockstep with its own vision.

“I’ve been in the AI research and development field for more than 20 years now, and I’m incredibly excited about the scenarios that this acquisition could make possible in conversational AI,” Harry Shum, EVP of Microsoft Artificial Intelligence and Research Group, said in the blog post. “Imagine a future where, instead of frantically searching through your organization’s directory, documents or emails to find the top tax law experts in your company, for example, you could communicate with an AI agent that would leverage Maluuba’s machine comprehension capabilities to immediately respond to your request. The agent would be able to answer your question in a company security-compliant manner by having a deeper understanding of the contents of your organization’s documents and emails, instead of simply retrieving a document by keyword matching, which happens today. This is just one of hundreds of scenarios we could imagine as Maluuba pushes the state-of-the-art technology of machine literacy.”

Maluuba Cofounders Sam Pasupalak and Kaheer Suleman and the research team will become part of Microsoft’s Artificial Intelligence and Research organization. Additionally, Yoshua Bengio, one of the world’s foremost experts in deep learning, head of the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms and an advisor to Maluuba, will also be advising Microsoft.

“As an admirer of Yoshua’s work from a distance, I’m really looking forward to this opportunity to work more closely with him and to benefit from his deep-learning systems expertise,” Shum said.

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