Microsoft swallows up AI language biz Maluuba

Aiming for 'literate machines that can think, reason and communicate like humans'

Microsoft reckons it can advance its efforts in conversational AI by today acquiring Maluuba – a Canadian machine-learning startup trying to “solve artificial general intelligence” through language.

The financial details of the deal remain undisclosed.

Founded in 2011 by CEO Sam Pasupalak and CTO Kaheer Suleman, who were classmates at the University of Waterloo, Canada, Maluuba has grown from a small startup to a fully established deep learning laboratory in Montreal.

Maluuba has built voice-powered virtual assistants for various Android platforms and smart appliances. It made headlines last year when it showed its deep learning algorithms could answer simple questions from small chunks of text from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone:

Youtube Video

It’s a good move for Microsoft, especially since it has been investing heavily in machine communication. Last year, the company released Cognitive Toolkit for developers interested in natural language processing on GitHub, and showcased Zo, its latest chatbot.

“Maluuba’s vision is to advance toward a more general artificial intelligence by creating literate machines that can think, reason and communicate like humans – a vision exactly in line with ours,” Microsoft wrote in a blog post.

Maluuba will remain in Montreal and report to Harry Shum, executive vice president of Microsoft’s AI and Research group. The deep learning lab will remain in Canada, and continue to work closely with Professor Yoshua Bengio, an expert in deep learning and an advisor on Intel’s Nervana AI board.

It’s a welcome injection of AI talent into Redmond, as The Register understands AI researchers have been leaving the Windows giant to join other projects. ®

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