From the Microsoft blog post:
We are excited to announce today that we have acquired Semantic Machines Inc., a Berkeley, California-based company that has developed a revolutionary new approach to building conversational AI. Their work uses the power of machine learning to enable users to discover, access and interact with information and services in a much more natural way, and with significantly less effort...
...Microsoft has driven research and breakthroughs in the fundamental building blocks of conversational AI, such as speech recognition and natural language understanding, for more than two decades. The goal has been to expand our vision of computers all around us to a world where they could see, hear talk and understand as humans. In 2016, we took another big step toward realizing this vision of conversational computing with the introduction of a framework for developing bots and the release of pre-built Cognitive Services for infusing speech recognition and natural language understanding into intelligent assistants. Today, there are more than 1 million developers using our Microsoft Cognitive Services and more than 300,000 developers using our Azure Bot Service, all helping to make computing more conversational.
We are further developing our work in conversational AI with our digital assistant Cortana, as well as with social chatbots like XiaoIce. XiaoIce has had more than 30 billion conversations, averaging up to 30 minutes each, with 200 million users across platforms in China, Japan, the United States, India and Indonesia. With XiaoIce and Cortana, we’ve made breakthroughs in speech recognition and more recently become the first to add full-duplex voice sense to a conversational AI system, allowing people to carry on a conversation naturally.
You have to chuckle a little at the reference to 'full-duplex voice sense', this is Microsoft having a dig at Google's recently announced Duplex technology, but it's good that the intelligence in our voice assistants is increasing steadily. And, obviously, well done to the folks at Semantic Machines Inc., which just gained a lot of cash and immense backing - apparently they'll remain in Berkeley and work as part of Microsoft.
Will the Cortana improvements in the coming years be seen when accessing the assistant under Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile? I don't see why not - this is a back-end/server-side thing. Watch this space.
(via The Register)