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Microsoft today announced it has acquired Lobe, creator of a platform for building custom deep learning models using a visual interface that requires no code or technical understanding of AI. Lobe, a platform that can understand hand gestures, read handwriting, and hear music, will continue to develop as a standalone service, according to the company’s website.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

People have only started to utilize the full potential of AI, Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott said today in a blog post announcing the acquisition.

“This in large part is because AI development and building deep learning models are slow and complex processes even for experienced data scientists and developers. To date, many people have been at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing AI, and we’re committed to changing that,” he said.


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Lobe was established in 2015, currently has three employees, and is based in San Francisco. A Microsoft spokesperson declined to comment on the potential evolution of the Lobe platform or incorporation of Lobe tech into its AI services.

Lobe is Microsoft’s third San Francisco-area AI startup acquisition in recent months, following the acquisition of natural language processing company Semantics Machines in May to beef up Cortana’s intelligence, give voice app developers better tools, and open a conversational AI center for excellence at the University of California, Berkeley.

In June, Microsoft acquired Bonsai, a company with a platform with automated model generation management.

Each of the acquisitions was made to further Microsoft’s efforts to simplify the ways in which people can create their own AI models, Scott said.

Though Microsoft has been busy acquiring AI startups in the past few months, companies like Google and Apple lead the charge in total number of AI startups acquired since 2012, according to CB Insight analysis earlier this year.

Updated 12:41 pm Sept. 13 to include Lobe employees number and decline to comment from Microsoft spokesperson.

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