Microsoft just announced that it has acquired Semantic Machines. The Berkeley, California-based startup develops conversational AI – systems that communicate with humans using natural dialogue. Considering Microsoft’s work with Cortana, this acquisition makes seems quite logical.
Microsoft said that the purchase was designed to strengthen not only Cortana, but also conversational AI offerings such as Microsoft Cognitive Services, and the Azure Bot Service.
“With the acquisition of Semantic Machines, we will establish a conversational AI center of excellence in Berkeley to push forward the boundaries of what is possible in language interfaces,” Microsoft AI and research CTO David Ku said in a blog post.
This acquisition is actually a great win for Microsoft. Semantic Machines’ team includes a cadre of experts in the conversational AI arena. Its CTO is former Chief Speech Scientist for Siri at Apple, while others are well-known researchers from UC Berkeley and Stanford University. With the tech the company is developing, Cortana could get better at remembering the conversation you’ve had earlier, asking and responding to follow-up questions etc.
Semantic Machines was founded in August 2014. That year, the company attracted $8.5 million in funding. And in December 2015, it attracted another $12.3 million. It also has investors like General Catalyst Partners and Bain Capital Ventures.