Microsoft goes big on AI research

SEATTLE • Microsoft is reorganising part of the company to better position itself as one of the significant players in the emerging field of artificial intelligence.

The company has created a new organisation that combines its research group, one of the largest in the technology industry, and a number of products that rely on artificial intelligence, including its Bing search engine and Cortana virtual assistant.

The new artificial intelligence and research group at Microsoft will have more than 5,000 employees.

Microsoft also said that one of its top executives, Mr Qi Lu, has left the company to recuperate from a serious bicycle accident that occurred several months ago.

Once he recovers, Mr Lu will continue to act as an adviser to Mr Satya Nadella, Microsoft's chief executive, and Mr Bill Gates, its co-founder, Mr Nadella said in an e-mail to company employees on Thursday.

The creation of a new group at Microsoft, with a focus on artificial intelligence, was already planned, but the departure of Mr Lu - a respected computer scientist who spent a decade at Yahoo - affected the shape of the new organisation.

In addition to Microsoft's Office products and other applications, Mr Lu oversaw Bing, which is part of the new artificial intelligence and research group.

"Microsoft is really betting the company on AI," Mr Harry Shum, the Microsoft executive vice-president who will oversee the new group, said in a phone interview.

Technology companies are making deep investments in artificial intelligence, seeing it as a key ingredient in the emergence of everything from self-driving vehicles to devices that can identify faces.

Microsoft has been particularly vocal in the past year about the importance of artificial intelligence to its future.

The structure of the new organisation will tighten the link between its researchers and products already on the market today.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 01, 2016, with the headline 'Microsoft goes big on AI research'. Print Edition | Subscribe