Microsoft today announced that it has acquired Maluuba, a research-oriented startup focusing on deep learning, a type of artificial intelligence (AI). As part of the deal, one of Maluuba’s advisors, deep learning luminary Yoshua Bengio, will advise Microsoft. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.
Microsoft will announce what it’s planning to do with Maluuba in the next few months, Harry Shum, executive vice president of Microsoft’s recently formed artificial intelligence and research group, wrote in a blog post.
“Maluuba’s expertise in deep learning and reinforcement learning for question-answering and decision-making systems will help us advance our strategy to democratize AI and to make it accessible and valuable to everyone — consumers, businesses and developers,” Shum wrote.
Deep learning generally involves training artificial neural networks on lots of data, such as photos, and getting them to make inferences about new data. This can be used for a variety of purposes, including speech recognition.
Microsoft has been incorporating this type of technology into Microsoft Translator and other services. It also recently acquired SwiftKey, a startup that has used deep learning inside a virtual keyboard for mobile devices. And Microsoft has its own deep learning framework, CNTK.
Meanwhile, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Twitter, among others, have acquired deep learning startups.
Maluuba was founded in 2011 and is based in Montreal and Waterloo in Canada. Partners include Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (MILA), of which Bengio is the head. Recently, Bengio received a grant from Google as part of the formation of a Montreal AI research group.
“Microsoft is an excellent match for our company,” Maluuba cofounders Sam Pasupalak and Kaheer Suleman wrote in a blog post. “Their ambitious vision of democratizing AI to empower every person and every organization on the planet fundamentally aligns with how we see our technology being used. Microsoft provides us the opportunity to deliver our work to the billions of consumer and enterprise users that can benefit from the advent of truly intelligent machines.”