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Microsoft Buys Semantic Machines In Hopes Of Strengthening AI, Cortana

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Microsoft is expanding its venture into artificial intelligence. The technology company recently announced that it acquired startup Semantic Machines.

What Is Semantic Machines?

David Ku, Microsoft's Chief Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft AI and Research, revealed on the company's official blog on Monday, May 20, the acquisition of the Berkley, California-based company. Semantic Machines taps engineers, entrepreneurs, and researchers to devise ways for humans to communicate with AI through a "natural" conversation.

The company uses machines to enable users to discover and access information through several different categories. Through conversational AI, its customers have already strengthened the ability to connect with several services such as when organizing their travel schedules, arranging appointments, and increasing their productivity. The team also played a role in developing Apple's virtual assistant, Siri.

Microsoft And AI

By acquiring Semantic Machines, Microsoft will have the ability to strengthen several of its previous products. Ku wrote that more than 1 million developers using the Microsoft Cognitive Services and over 300,000 developers use the Azure Bot Service. Both technologies have helped the company lay the groundwork for understanding conversation computing and building digital assistants.

The company also noted that it is working on expanding its digital assistant Cortana and is expected to continue work on XiaoIce, a social chatbot used by 200 million users in China, Japan, and the United States. Microsoft hopes that the acquisition could push the boundaries of AI language interfaces.

"Combining Semantic Machines' technology with Microsoft's own AI advances, we aim to deliver powerful, natural, and more productive user experiences that will take conversation computing to a new level," said Ku in a statement to CNBC.

Microsoft Update

In addition to acquiring Sematic Machines, reports surfaced that Microsoft is working on building cheaper Surface Pro tablets to compete against Apple's iPad. The new tablets would be redesigned to make them look like iPads and are supposedly coming in 18 GB and 64 GB options. They will also be equipped with Wi-Fi + Cellular options. The new Surface Pro tablets are reported to be $400 compared to the iPads' starting price of $329.

Microsoft also enabled a gift-giving program that would allow users to send Xbox One and PC games from the Microsoft Store. Customers must look for game content such as maps and in-game exclusives. Once they hit the product page, they can click on the "Buy as gift" option and enter their e-mail address or Xbox username and send it. However, users can only purchase two discounted games every 14 days, and there is a limit of 10 discounted products.

Tech Times reached out to Microsoft and Semantic Machines for a comment on this story.

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