Microsoft is building an artificial intelligence (AI) research hub to speed up the integration of AI into products and services.
Harry Shum, executive vice president for Microsoft’s AI and research group, spoke about the new lab, called Microsoft Research AI, for the first time this week at an event in the U.K.
In a blog post, he wrote that the lab will combine various disciplines — such as machine learning, perception, and natural language processing — to develop more sophisticated AI. This integrated approach aims to develop systems that can understand language and take action based on that understanding.
Machine reading, which combines AI disciplines such as natural language processing and deep learning, is an example.
“We believe AI will be even more helpful when we can create tools that combine those functions and add some of the abilities that come naturally to people,” Shum wrote. “That includes things like applying our knowledge of one task to another task, or having a commonsense understanding of the world around us.”
The company first launched Microsoft AI and Research in September 2016. The group brings together about 7,500 computer scientists, researchers, and engineers from the company’s research labs and product groups such as digital assistant Cortana and Azure Machine Learning.
The new Microsoft AI lab will be based at the company’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington, Bloomberg reports.
The announcement comes as competitors including Google are beefing up their AI efforts.
In May, Google announced its next-generation Tensor Processing Units (TPUs). The Cloud TPUs aim to make Google Cloud Platform “the best cloud for machine learning,” said Google CEO Sundar Pichai, adding that the investment reflects an overall shift in computing.
“This is a shift from a mobile-first to an AI-first world, and we are driving it forward across all of our products and platforms,” Pichai said.
Both companies are founding members of the Partnership on AI to Support People and Society. Microsoft and Google, along with IBM, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and DeepMind formed the group in September 2016 to advance AI technologies including machine perception, learning, and automated reasoning.