Microsoft has created a new artificial intelligence (AI) division that merges several teams into one as AI continues to grow in importance for the big tech companies.
The Microsoft AI and Research Group will see staff who work on Cortana and Bing merged into the existing AI division to bolster machine learning in consumer-facing products.
The new division will be headed by Harry Shun, who has served at Microsoft Research and Bing Engineering.
“Microsoft has been working in AI since the beginning of Microsoft Research, and yet we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible,” he said.
The reshuffle also sees the benching of another stalwart executive, Qi Lu, arguably right-hand man to CEO and head of privacy invasion Satya Nadella. It’s understood that Qi, who suffered severe injuries in a biking accident some time ago, has taken medical retirement.
Microsoft has bolstered its AI division with a spending splurge, most notably on SwiftKey, the popular iOS and Android keyboard app which this week launched the first version to be powered by neural networks for better text prediction based on context as well as the individual’s previous word order.
The firm picked up Genee last month, an AI scheduling service similar to the feature just launched in Google Calendar. It is widely expected that Genee will be stripped down and morphed into yet another facet of the increasingly Kafkaesque Microsoft Outlook.
Microsoft also spent $26bn on LinkedIn, which uses AI to suggest connections with people believed to be in related networks and that the firm hopes to integrate into its key productivity tools.
Microsoft, Google and IBM launched a joint AI taskforce this week underlining that tech firms see it as key to much of the future of their platforms.
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