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Microsoft buys Chatbot Start-up as the acquisition market starts to evolve
As the battle of chatbots intensifies the tech titans are buying chatbot firms that can give a competitive differentiation. It is now Microsoft’s turn as they acquire Semantic Machines, which has offices in Berkeley, California and Boston, Massachusetts.
Semantic Machines is made up of a team of proven researchers, engineers and entrepreneurs with extensive track records in AI development. Their team has unique experience, building core AI technology for Siri and Google Now as well as leading award-winning academic research. This gives them a distinct advantage as they use their collective knowledge to pioneer the next generation of natural language processing, speech recognition, speech synthesis, deep learning, semantic understanding, machine learning and linguistics.
Semantic Machines is positioned as a fundamental shift as a next generation Conversational AI technology. Their claim is that they have novel models for dialogue and NLP; as well as new approaches for automatically generating limitless AI Assistant system capacity.
The mission of Semantic Machines is to revolutionize human-to-computer interaction, by creating the “first” viable, scalable, conversational computing paradigm deigned to enable dramatic improvements – in terms both customer experience and costs – in the areas of customer service and home automation.
Microsoft will want to rapidly incorporate Semantic Machines technology into their Cognitive Services, Botframework (omnichannel orchestration) and Cortana to give a competitive edge over Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple, IBM, Samsung, WeChat and others.
Semantic Machines has a high pedigree group of conversational experts including: Dan Roth co-founder and CEO, Damon Pender co-founder and CFO, UC Berkeley professor Dan Klein co-founder and Chief Scientist, and Stanford University professor Percy Liang co-chief scientist, and former Apple chief speech scientist Larry Gillicki, co-founder and CTO.
“With the acquisition of Semantic Machines, we will establish a conversational AI centre of excellence in Berkeley to push forward the boundaries of what is possible in language interfaces,” said David Ku, chief technology officer at Microsoft AI and research.
“Combining Semantic Machines’ technology with Microsoft’s own AI advances, we aim to deliver powerful, natural and more productive user experiences that will take conversational computing to a new level.”
Semantic Machines had raised around US$21m with venture capitalist such as Bain Capital Ventures and General Catalyst. Google bought Deep Mind for circa US$400m so Semantic Machines was possible acquired for between US$210m to US$420m (pure speculative guess).
Semantic Machines complements Microsoft’s ubiquitous strategy that drives consumption though the Azure serverless cloud and enriched its intelligent edge capabilities.
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