Microsoft creates an AI research lab to challenge Google and DeepMind

Microsoft has created a new research lab with a focus on developing general-purpose artificial intelligence technology, the company revealed today. The lab will be located at Microsoft’s Redmond HQ, and will include a team of more than 100 scientists working on AI, from areas including natural language processing, learning and perception systems.

The aim of building a general-purpose AI that can effectively address problems in a range of different areas, rather than focusing on a single specific task, is one that many leading technology companies are pursuing. Most notably, perhaps, Google is attempting to tackle the challenge of more generalized AI via both its own Google Brain project and through efforts at DeepMind, the company it acquired in 2014, which is now its own subsidiary under mutual parent company Alphabet.

Microsoft’s new endeavor is called Microsoft Research AI, and it’ll pull from existing AI expertise at the company, as well as pursue new hires, including experts in related fields such as cognitive psychology to flesh out the team, Bloomberg says. The lab will also formally partner with MIT’s Center for Brains, Minds and Machines. Seeking academic-private tie-ups is not at all unusual in AI development — Microsoft, Google and others, including Uber, have made commitments to academic institutions in order to help secure talent and pipeline for students with related expertise.

In addition to the research lab, Microsoft is going to create an AI ethics oversight panel that will act in an advisory capacity across the company, which is also very much in keeping with industry trends. Microsoft previously signed on to work with DeepMind, Amazon, Google, Facebook and IBM on a cross-company partnership for ethical AI development, and Google and DeepMind also have their own AI ethics board.