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Microsoft acquires deep learning firm Maluuba

William Payne
January 19, 2017
Microsoft is acquiring Montreal based deep learning specialist Maluuba, a company particularly focused on natural language understanding. Microsoft says that Maluuba's focus on deep learning and reinforcement learning for question-answering and decision-making systems will support Microsoft's strategy of making artificial intelligence more accessible to non specialists. The move can be seen as a response to investments and developments made in deep learning and cognitive computing by Microsoft rivals such as IBM with Watson, Google with Deepmind, Apple and Amazon.

Yoshua Bengio, head of the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms and an advisor to Maluuba, will advise Microsoft, particularly Harry Shum, executive vice president of Microsoft’s Artificial Intelligence and Research Group.

Maluuba’s vision is to advance toward a more general artificial intelligence by creating literate machines that can think, reason and communicate like humans. The company has researched problems in language understanding by modelling innate capabilities of the human brain, from memory and common sense reasoning to curiosity and decision making.

Microsoft is describing this approach as opening the way to conversational AI.

Last autumn, Microsoft formed its artificial intelligence and research organisation, bringing engineering and research closer together in a bid to accelerate the pipeline from research to product development. Microsoft says that Maluuba has experience in closely aligning its research and engineering teams, and the company plans to learn from its experience.