Microsoft Showcases New AI Products at Ignite 2018

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Cloud-Based AI Leading the Way

The cloud and AI are two of the biggest growth areas in technology. Combining the two is big business, and Microsoft is right at the forefront as always.

As migration towards cloud-based apps continues, the role of AI in the delivery and deployment of services is likewise gathering pace. With big names like Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services breathing down its neck, Microsoft is eager to demonstrate that it is still a market leader in developing technology. It took the opportunity at its recent Ignite conference to do just that.

Artificial Intelligence is something that Microsoft has been researching for years. However, it is only in more recent times, with advances in machine learning techniques like natural language processing that the technology has really started to develop  practical applications. A perfect example is the ubiquitous chatbots, which have transformed from curios that soon become frustrating to genuinely useful customer service tools that can deliver a competitive edge. Here are some of the latest innovations that Microsoft announced.

Cortana’s getting smarter

The virtual assistant market is the first thing we think of when it comes to AI, and Cortana is locked in battle with Google Assistant, Alexa and Siri. While voice control is becoming increasingly commonplace at home, Microsoft is clearly eager to corner the business market and has added new features that will allow Cortana to automate specific tasks.

Advances in AML

Automatic Machine Learning (AML) is the kind of “deep learning” that sounds like the stuff of science fiction. This is essentially technology whereby AI is used to improve AI, and it is an area in which Google has taken the lead in recent years. Microsoft has announced that its latest AI tools will make this kind of deep learning more approachable for the mass market.

365 Ideas

There are a number of personal productivity features that use AI dotted around the apps in Office 365 and these have now been consolidated and repackaged into a single feature called Ideas. Anyone who remembers the annoying paperclip from Windows 97 might have a sinking feeling, but the world has moved on in 20 years. The reason people developed such an irrational hatred of Clippy was that he never learned. It looks like you’re writing a letter, he proclaimed, as you started writing your 10th of the day. The assistance offered by Microsoft Ideas will show just how much machine learning has developed since those early days.

Using AI where it’s needed most

Getting frustrated at the limited intellect of your virtual assistant might sound like the epitome of a first world problem, but Microsoft also announced an initiative that will tackle issues that are deadly serious. The latest AI for Good initiative will plough $40 million of investment into non-governmental organisations around the world, using AI to provide aid for refugees and displaced children. It will also support programmes aimed at improving environmental sustainability, preventing abuses of human rights and assisting in disaster response efforts across the globe.

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