Microsoft aims to make artificial intelligence mainstream

Agence France-Presse
AI takes centerstage on the first day of the tech titan's annual Build conference

CORTANA PRAISE. Pictured is a screenshot from a Microsoft-published YouTube video featuring developers sharing their thoughts on the tech titan's AI-powered assistant, Cortana. Screenshot from Microsoft/YouTube

SEATTLE, US – Microsoft on Wednesday, May 10, US time, unveiled new tools intended to democratize artificial intelligence by enabling machine smarts to be built into software from smartphone games to factory floors.

Improving programs with artificial intelligence that could tap into services in the internet “cloud” and even take advantage of computing power in nearby machines, was part of a vision unveiled as the US technology titan’s annual Build Conference opened.

“We are infusing AI into every product and service we offer,” said Microsoft executive vice president of artificial intelligence and research Harry Shum.

“We’ve been creating the building blocks for the current wave of AI breakthroughs for more than two decades.”

AI HEAD. Pictured is Harry Shum, the executive vice president of Microsoft for AI and research, speaking at Microsoft Build 2017 on May 10, 2017. Photo from Microsoft.

Microsoft research has gone deep into areas such as machine learning, speech recognition, and enabling machines to recognize what they “see.”

“Now, we’re in the unique position of being able to use those decades of research breakthroughs,” Shum said.

Microsoft also published a YouTube video on May 10, featuring various developers sharing their experience with Microsoft’s digital assistant, Cortana:


Microsoft rivals including Amazon, Apple, Google and IBM have all been aggressively pursuing the promise and potential of artificial intelligence.

Amazon on Tuesday unveiled the latest member of its family of devices powered by its Alexa digital assistant, with a touchscreen.

Also this week, Samsung-owned Harman Kardon announced the release of its new Invoke speaker powered by Microsoft’s digital assistant Cortana and integrating Skype for making calls using the device.

Meanwhile, Google has been ramping up capabilities of its Home digital assistant.

Artificial intelligence is getting a foothold in people’s homes, with personal assistants answering questions and controlling connected devices such as appliances or light bulbs.

Digital assistants already boast features such as reminding people of appointments entered into calendars and chiming in with advice to set out early if traffic is challenging.

Microsoft’s aim on Wednesday was on businesses and software developers, whether they are students building a fun app or professional technology teams.

“Microsoft is trying to use AI for businesses to solve business problems and app developers to make applications better,” said Moor Insights and Strategy principal analyst Patrick Moorhead.

“Which is different from Amazon, Facebook, and Google whose primary business model is to mine personal information using AI to sell you things or put ads in front of you.”

Microsoft is taking a unique approach by letting developers customize gesture commands, voice recognition and more instead of making them conform to settings in “off-the-shelf” AI, according to the analyst. –