In a bid to go deep beneath the surface of artificial intelligence, Microsoft is putting together a super-team comprising 5000 scientists and engineers called Microsoft AI and Research Group.

Harry Shum, Microsoft’s Executive Vice President, Technology & Research, will be heading the team, which brings together the expertise and resources of multiple groups from within Microsoft. The team will be working on four core areas of AI for Microsoft: agents, applications, services and infrastructure.

The internal teams working as part of this dream team are Microsoft Research, the Information Platform Group, Ambient Computing and Robotics, as well as the Bing and Cortana team – the Applications and Services Group.

In an internal letter to employees, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella outlines how artificial intelligence will be “infused” into the company’s existing and new “computing platforms and experiences.”

In a blog post yesterday, Thursday Sep 29, Harry Shum wrote:

“End-to-end innovation in AI will not come from isolated research labs alone, but from the combination of at-scale production workloads together with deep technology advancements in algorithms, systems and experiences. The new group will provide greater opportunity to accelerate our innovation in AI, and to enable Microsoft to create truly intelligent systems and products for our customers.”

The announcement from Microsoft comes hot on the heels of the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society, an effort by the world’s largest companies to come together and push the AI agenda beyond where it has reached today. Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Google and IBM will help create more awareness around AI and its applications, help define standards and generally create a platform for discussing the future of AI.

I can’t help it, but the name of the partnership sounds suspiciously like the fictional organization from the house of Marvel, called S.H.I.E.L.D., which could stand for one of the following:

Saviours of Humanity by Intervention in the Evolution of Life-form Deviants

OR

Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement Logistics Division

OR

Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate

…depending on which version you’re familiar with.

Thank God the tech majors didn’t acrynomize the name of their group, or else we’d be talking about a tech group called PAIBPS! Hmm, the greatest tech minds in the world get together and that’s what they come up with?

On a more serious note, one interesting point to note here is that they’ve specifically claimed that they won’t be lobbying the government. This is significant because Microsoft is currently fighting a government gag order that states that companies cannot notify users when government agencies request information about them.

This is probably the first time that so many large tech companies are coming together in unison towards a common social goal. Of course, they presumably won’t be sharing their individual progress with each other – at least not the commercially viable bits – but it will definitely bring artificial intelligence to the forefront of public awareness in the coming years.

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