Microsoft Scoops Up Artificial Intelligence Startup Maluuba

The Canadian company has been working on ways to improve communicating with computers.

Evan Niu
Evan Niu, CFA
Jan 13, 2017 at 1:04PM
Technology and Telecom

Image source: Maluuba.

What happened

Software giant Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has announced that it has acquired Maluuba, a start-up focused on artificial intelligence (AI), deep learning, and reinforcement learning. The Montreal-based company has been working on allowing computers to be more literate and communicate more efficiently with humans, aiming to dramatically improve language understanding and modeling human characteristics like memory, common sense reasoning, and curiosity.

Microsoft describes a vision where instead of searching within a company for internal resources, workers would be able to quickly ask an AI agent to find what they're looking for and Maluuba's machine comprehension capabilities would handle the request. No financial details were disclosed.

Does it matter?

In technical terms, Maluuba has been pursuing artificial general intelligence, which is considered the next evolution of AI. Most AI today are considered narrow AI, where computers can perform single tasks extremely well and far better than humans.

Meanwhile, AI is one of the major fields of innovation that all of the major tech companies are heavily investing in, and being able to communicate effectively with AI agents has been one of the key challenges that users have been faced with in recent years. Different virtual assistants have varying abilities to leverage user data and context clues in order to hold ongoing conversations with human users.

Microsoft may have missed out big time on mobile, but it's determined not to let that happen again with the next big paradigm shift in computing. As usual, the company's goals are focused on productivity, and how an AI agent could help the enterprise.