Microsoft announced a huge new artificial intelligence endeavor this week, bringing together 5,000 computer scientists and engineers under a new division called Microsoft AI and Research Group. The effort will be led by company exec Harry Shum, a long-time employee who’s helped develop Microsoft’s Bing search engine, along with computer vision and graphics.
Shum noted that Microsoft has been focused on AI for a long time, adding that the group represents a new chapter in that effort. “Microsoft has been working in artificial intelligence since the beginning of Microsoft Research,” he said, “and yet we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible.”
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says the company’s top priority is to make artificial intelligence accessible to everyone. To do that the company will develop new AI agents like Cortana while infusing the technology into all of its apps and services. It also plans to build the “world’s most powerful AI supercomputer” using its Azure cloud service and open it up to the public.
“At Microsoft, we are focused on empowering both people and organizations, by democratizing access to intelligence to help solve our most pressing challenges,” Nadella said. “To do this, we are infusing AI into everything we deliver across our computing platforms and experiences.”
It could be a while before the company achieves all those goals, though Microsoft is already pretty far along in its AI efforts.