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Microsoft To Acquire Conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The acquisition of Semantic Machines in May brought a revolutionary new approach to conversational AI

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Microsoft launches e-commerce portal for Telangana's handloom weavers. Pixabay

Microsoft has announced to acquire a conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI) and bot development company XOXCO for an undisclosed sum.

Texas-based XOXCO has been paving the way in conversational AI since 2013 and was responsible for the creation of Howdy, the first commercially available bot for Slack that helps schedule meetings.

“It also developed Botkit which provides the development tools used by hundreds of thousands of developers on GitHub. Over the years, we have partnered with XOXCO and have been inspired by this work,” said Lili Cheng, Corporate Vice President, Conversational AI at Microsoft on Thursday.

Conversational AI is quickly becoming a way in which businesses engage with employees and customers — from creating virtual assistants and redesigning customer interactions to using conversational assistants to help employees communicate and work better together.

According to Gartner, “by 2020, conversational artificial intelligence will be a supported user experience for more than 50 percent of large, consumer-centric enterprises”.

The Microsoft Bot Framework, available as a service in Azure and on GitHub, today supports over 360,000 developers.

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A sign for Microsoft is seen on a building in Cambridge. VOA

“With this acquisition, we are continuing to realise our approach of democratising AI development, conversation and dialog, and integrating conversational experiences where people communicate,” said Cheng.

Over the last six months, Microsoft has made several strategic acquisitions to accelerate the pace of AI development.

The acquisition of Semantic Machines in May brought a revolutionary new approach to conversational AI.

In July, it acquired Bonsai to help reduce the barriers to AI development by combining machine teaching, reinforcement learning and simulation.

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In September, Microsoft acquired Lobe, a company that has created a simple visual interface empowering anyone to develop and apply deep learning and AI models quickly, without writing code.

“The acquisition of GitHub in October demonstrates our belief in the power of communities to help fuel the next wave of bot development,” Microsoft said. (IANS)

Next Story

Microsoft Employees Decry ‘996’ Chinese Work Culture

The Alibaba Founder Ma has suggested that people in China should work for 72 hours in a week or 12 hours a day for six days

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FILE - Microsoft Corp. signage is seen outside the Microsoft Visitor Center in Redmond, Washington, July 3, 2014. VOA

A group of Microsoft employees has come forward to support Chinese tech workers on the gruelling ‘996’ culture, writing a petition in defence of a trending GitHub repository that is being censored in China.

In a letter written on web-hosting service Github, owned by Microsoft, the employees have asked the company to keep the “996.ICU” GitHub repository uncensored, The Verge reported on Monday.

The repository “996.ICU” is a reference to the working hours that tech workers in China are protesting — 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week.

The ICU refers to employees who work under these grueling hours, eventually ending up in the Intensive Care Unit at hospitals.

“The “996.ICU” repository was established in March by Chinese tech workers who were protesting extreme overwork,” said the report.

The “996” philosophy has been endorsed by the tech billionaire and Alibaba Founder Jack Ma.

Several local Chinese browsers have already blocked access to 996.ICU, including Tencent, Alibaba, Xiaomi, and Qihoo 360.

Microsoft, that owns GitHub, has not blocked the repository till now.

Microsoft, Taiwan AI
A man walks past a Microsoft sign set up for the Microsoft BUILD conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco, April 28, 2015. VOA

“We, the workers of Microsoft and GitHub, support the 996.ICU movement and stand in solidarity with tech workers in China. We know this is a problem that crosses national borders,” wrote employees in the petition.

“Another reason we must take a stand in solidarity with Chinese workers is that history tells us that multinational companies will pit workers against each other in a race to the bottom as they outsource jobs and take advantage of weak labour standards in the pursuit of profit,” they added.

Microsoft workers called on Chinese tech companies to comply with local labour laws, which limit their workers to 40 hours a week.

“We encourage Microsoft and GitHub to keep the 996.ICU GitHub repository uncensored and available to everyone,” they said.

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Since 996.ICU is hosted on GitHub, the repository can’t be blocked at a network level without blocking the entire site, which would be catastrophic to Chinese software developers.

“The ultimate decision of whether to risk China’s GitHub access falls to Microsoft, which so far hasn’t indicated a firm position on the protests,” the report added.

The Alibaba Founder Ma has suggested that people in China should work for 72 hours in a week or 12 hours a day for six days.

“If we find things we like, 996 is not a problem. If you don’t like (your work), every minute is torture,” he said in a blog post. (IANS)