In an effort to scale up the competition in the artificial intelligence arena with Google, Apple, Amazon, Baidu, and other leaders, Microsoft has acquired conversational A.I. startup Semantic Machines. The announcement was made on Monday through a blog post, though the Microsoft did not disclose any financial details.
“With the acquisition of Semantic Machines, we will establish a conversational AI center 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 was founded in 2014, by speech technology experts who previously worked at Apple, Nuance Communications, and Voice Signal Technologies. The current CEO of Semantics is Dan Roth, the co-founder and CEO of Voice Signal. The CTO of Semantic, Larry Gillick, previously worked for Apple as the Chief Speech Scientist for the Siri Voice assistant.
Semantic Machines has raised approximately $12.4 million from investors to date, according to SEC filing. Among its investors are General Catalysts Partners, Bain Capital Ventures, Sound Ventures, Sound Ventures, Ray Stata, and Justin Kan. In January 2015, Xconomy reported that Semantic is developing a natural language processing and A.I technology to improve mobile voice-enabled agents.
Microsoft said that it will set up an A.I center in Berkeley, CA, with the current team of Semantic. According to the company website, they have more than 30 employees and have an office in the Boston area as well.
Ku also said that once the Semantic Machines tech is applied into Microsoft services, it will enhance Cortana as well. The Microsoft voice assistant will become will become more capable of carrying out tasks with fewer words per command.
Through this acquisition, Microsoft will be able to gain momentum on its competition regarding the ever-evolving voice assistants of other brands like Samsung’s Bixby 2.0, Google Assistant, and Amazon’s Alexa.