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Microsoft launches AI and research team

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Microsoft Corp. continues to go all in on artificial intelligence (AI) with the creation of a new Microsoft AI and Research Group that will be headed by executive vice president, Harry Shum.  

The AI and Research Group combines teams such as Information Platform, Cortana and Bing, and Ambient Computing and Robotics, in order to meet Microsoft’s growing focus on AI. The new group will also encompass all AI product engineering, basic and applied research labs, and New Experiences and Technologies (NExT).

A 20-year veteran of Microsoft, Shum‘s past roles within the company include engineering leadership roles like corporate vice president for Bing search product development and overseeing research development at Microsoft Research Asia and the Internet Services Research Center. Shum initially joined the company in Microsoft Research in 1996 before becoming one of the founding members of Microsoft Research Asia in 1998 (originally called Microsoft Research China).

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Harry Shum, Microsoft executive vice president of the AI and Research Group

 

“Today, AI is shifting the computer science research supply chain and blurring lines between research and product. End-to-end innovation in AI will not come from isolated research labs alone, but from the combination of at-scale production workloads together with deep technology advancements in algorithms, systems, and experiences. The new group will provide greater opportunity to accelerate our innovation in AI, and to enable Microsoft to create truly intelligent systems and products for our customers,” wrote Shum in a blog post.

Microsoft’s direct approach to continuing its AI development are as follows:

  • Agents: Harness AI to fundamentally change human and computer interaction through agents such as Microsoft’s digital personal assistant Cortana
  • Applications: Infuse every application, from the photo app on people’s phones to Skype and Office 365, with intelligence
  • Services: Make these same intelligent capabilities that are infused in Microsoft’s apps —cognitive capabilities such as vision and speech, and machine analytics — available to every application developer in the world
  • Infrastructure: Build the world’s most powerful AI supercomputer with Azure and make it available to anyone

Microsoft has been working in artificial intelligence since the beginning of Microsoft Research, and yet we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible,” said Shum in a press release. “Today’s move signifies Microsoft’s commitment to deploying intelligent technology and democratizing AI in a way that changes our lives and the world around us for the better. We will significantly expand our efforts to empower people and organizations to achieve more with our tools, our software and services, and our powerful, global-scale cloud computing capabilities.”

This news follows just a day after Microsoft revealed its collaboration with other tech giants Amazon, Facebook, IBM, and DeepMind/Google to create a non-profit organization called Partnership on AI. This new organization moves forward with the goal to provide a more advance public understanding of AI and to work together to create the best practices regarding AI development moving forward.