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January 16, 2017updated 17 Jan 2017 5:17pm

Artificial Intelligence startup Maluuba acquired by Microsoft

The acquisition intends to accelerate Microsoft’s ability to develop software so computers can read, write and converse naturally.

By CBR Staff Writer

Microsoft has acquired Canadian artificial intelligence (AI) startup Maluuba for an undisclosed sum.

Maluuba was founded in 2010 by University of Waterloo students Sam Pasupalak and Kaheer Suleman. It focuses on solving artificial general intelligence by creating literate machines that can think, reason and communicate like humans.

The company’s human-generated datasets are freely available to the AI research community.

Maluuba’s News QA dataset develops algorithms capable of answering questions that need human-level comprehension and reasoning skills.

The company’s Frames dataset helps drive research that allows conversational agents that can support decision-making in complex settings.

In a blog post, Microsoft said that Maluuba’s expertise in deep learning and reinforcement learning for question-answering and decision-making systems will help it advance its strategy to democratise AI and to make it accessible for consumers, businesses and developers.

Pasupalak and Suleman said: “Microsoft provides us the opportunity to deliver our work to the billions of consumer and enterprise users that can benefit from the advent of truly intelligent machines.”

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Microsoft artificial intelligence and research group executive vice president Harry Shum said: “Maluuba’s impressive team is addressing some of the fundamental problems in language understanding by modeling some of the innate capabilities of the human brain, from memory and common sense reasoning to curiosity and decision making.

“I’ve been in the AI research and development field for more than 20 years now, and I’m incredibly excited about the scenarios that this acquisition could make possible in conversational AI.”

As part of the deal, Maluuba advisor Yoshua Bengio a University of Montreal professor who undertakes work on artificial neural networks and deep learning will be signing on with Microsoft in an advisory role, working directly with Shum.

Like its competitors, Microsoft is focusing on to strengthening its AI capabilities. Last month, Microsoft Ventures launched an AI investment fund and invested in AI incubator Element AI.

The new fund will make investments of similar size to earlier Microsoft Ventures investments.

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