Microsoft aims to make AI mainstream

Microsoft unveiled new tools intended to democratize artificial intelligence by enabling machine smarts to be built into software from smartphone games to factory floors. The US technology titan opened its annual Build Conference by highlighting programs with artificial intelligence that could tap into services in the Internet “cloud” and even take advantage of computing power in nearby machines. “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.”
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 rivals including Amazon, Apple, Google and IBM have all been aggressively pursing the promise and potential of artificial intelligence. 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 Chief Executive Satya Nadella, who opened the Seattle conference, also highlighted the need to build trust in technology, saying new applications must avoid the dystopian futures feared by some.
Nadella’s presentation included images from George Orwell’s “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” to underscore the issue of responsibility of those creating new technologies.
“What Orwell prophesied in ‘1984,’ where technology was being used to monitor, control, dictate, or what Huxley imagined we may do just by distracting ourselves without any meaning or purpose,” Nadella said.

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