Microsoft researchers have already created technology that can do two difficult tasks about as well as a person: identify images and recognize words in a conversation. Now, the company's leading AI experts are working on systems that can do something even more complex: Read passages of text and answer questions about them. "We're trying to develop what we call a literate machine: A machine that can read text, understand text and then learn how to communicate, whether it's written or orally," said Kaheer Suleman, the co-founder of Maluuba, a Quebec-based deep learning startup that Microsoft acquired earlier this year. The Maluuba team is one of several groups at Microsoft that are tackling the challenge of machine reading. Two other research teams, one at the company's Redmond, Washington, headquarters and the other in its Beijing, China, research lab, are currently leading a competition run by Stanford University that uses information from Wikipedia to test how well AI systems can answer questions about text passages.
Microsoft Corp. is funding a Montreal startup co-founded by renowned artificial-intelligence expert Yoshua Bengio, another endorsement of the city's reputation as an emerging global centre for one of most anticipated technology trends. The Redmond, Wash.based software giant, which is positioning itself to be a big player in AI, is announcing Monday the launch of a new venture fund to finance AI firms. Its first investment is in Montreal-based Element AI, co-founded by Dr. Bengio, a University of Montreal professor regarded as one of the pioneers of "deep learning," a field that uses algorithms to model and process information similar to how the brain works. Microsoft will also provide Element AI with access to its technology and services. "AI holds great promise to augment human capabilities and improve society," Nagrap Kashyap, corporate vice president of Microsoft Ventures, said.
When Microsoft acquired deep learning startup Maluuba in January, Maluuba's highly respected advisor, the deep learning pioneer Yoshua Bengio, agreed to continue advising Microsoft on its artificial intelligence efforts. Bengio, head of the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms, recently visited Microsoft's Redmond, Washington, campus, and took some time for a chat. Let's start with the basics: What is deep learning? Yoshua Bengio: Deep learning is an approach to machine learning, and machine learning is a way to try to make machines intelligent by allowing computers to learn from examples about the world around us or about some specific aspect of it. Deep learning is particular among all the machine learning methods in that it is inspired by some of the things we know about the brain.
Hot on the heels of Google, Microsoft has launched an initiative that it hopes will enable humans and artificial intelligence to complement each other more effectively. At an event in London on Wednesday, Microsoft announced that it's bringing together a new team of 100 engineers and researchers under the umbrella of Microsoft Research AI at its headquarters in Redmond, Washington. The company says that it's an effort to break down barriers between people who have until now been working across separate areas of AI. Speaking at the event, Eric Horvitz, the managing director of Microsoft Research, said that he thinks the initiative will put Microsoft on "the path to understanding the mysteries of human intellect." A big part of the initiative is to help improve human-AI collaboration.
The online shopping giant says it started to test self-driving robots in Snohomish County, Washington, Wednesday that can bring Amazon packages to shoppers' doorsteps. The robots are light blue, about the size of a Labrador, have six wheels and the Amazon smile logo stamped on its side, according to Amazon photos .