Microsoft aims to make artificial intelligence mainstream
The earnings for Microsoft's fiscal third quarter come as chief executive Satya Nadella seeks to reduce the tech giant's focus on software, shifting to cloud computing and business services. Photograph: (Zee News Network)
Microsoft on Wednesday unveiled new tools intended to democratise artificial intelligence (AI) by enabling machine smarts to be built into software from smartphone games to factory floors.
The company is improving programs with artificial intelligence that could tap into services in the internet "cloud" and take advantage of computing power in nearby machines. This was part of a vision unveiled as the US technology titan's annual Build Conference opened recently.
"We are infusing AI into every product and service we offer," said Microsoft executive vice president of artificial intelligence and research, Harry Shum.
He added, "We've been creating the building blocks for the current wave of AI breakthroughs for more than two decades."
Microsoft research has gone deep into areas such as machine learning, speech recognition, and enabling machines to recognise what they "see."
Now, we're in the unique position of being able to use those decades of research breakthroughs," Shum said.
Microsoft rivals including Amazon, Apple, Google and IBM have all been aggressively pursuing the promise and potential of artificial intelligence.
Amazon on Tuesday unveiled the latest member of its family of devices powered by its Alexa digital assistant, with a touchscreen.
Also this week, Samsung-owned Harman Kardon announced the release of its new Invoke speaker powered by Microsoft's digital assistant Cortana and integrating Skype for making calls using the device.
Meanwhile, Google has been ramping up capabilities of its Home digital assistant.
Artificial intelligence is getting a foothold in people's homes, with personal assistants answering questions and controlling connected devices such as appliances or light bulbs.
Digital assistants already boasts of features such as reminding people of appointments entered in their calendars and chiming in with advice to set out early if traffic is challenging.
Microsoft's focus on Wednesday was on businesses and software developers, whether students building a fun app or a professional technology team.
"Microsoft is trying to use AI for businesses to solve business problems and app developers to make applications better," said Moor Insights and Strategy principal analyst, Patrick Moorhead.
"Which is different from Amazon, Facebook, and Google whose primary business model is to mine personal information using AI to sell you things or put ads in front of you."
Microsoft is taking a unique approach by letting developers customise gesture commands, voice recognition and more instead of making them conform to settings in "off-the-shelf" AI, according to the analyst.