After the $26.2 billion acquisition of LinkedIn, Microsoft recently bought Wand Labs, a Foster City, Calif.-based startup focused on artificial intelligence and natural language. The firm has already some messaging apps in the making which are designed to act smarter than rival versions.
People familiar with the matter believe that the tech giant’s recent purchase is destined to help it develop “conversation as a platform,” as it has recently stated. Plus, Wand Labs engineers will team up with both Bing and platform developers to design smarter chat bots and agents.
Microsoft declined to unveil the price of the deal. We only know that the startup had collected about $3 million in funding prior to the purchase.
David Ku, who is part of the Information Platform Group at Microsoft, said that the startup will help the team gain a competitive edge in the growing field of conversational intelligence.
Ku explained that conversational intelligence is seeking new methods to make human-robot conversations as natural as they can get. In these efforts, natural language know-how and advanced technology play a key role.
Wand Labs had various ongoing projects such as mapping of services, semantic ontology, and third-party developer integration. The latter project is of great interest for Microsoft as its competitors are already working on similar programs which can integrate third party services within their own apps and services. It is the case with Facebook’s Messenger bots and Amazon’s Echo I-o-T platform.
Experts believe that Microsoft may use the technology to boost the functionality of its virtual assistant Cortana although neither the company nor Wand Labs has suggested such thing in a recent blog post. Cortana receives voice commands and can trigger various actions across Windows 10, but it can also “chat” with users and tell jokes.
Microsoft’s Ku also said that the technology developed by the startup will help his company make Office 365, Windows operating systems, Bing web search engine, and Microsoft Azure cloud-computing platform stronger while also empowering developers.
Apparently, Wand Labs has failed to come up on its own with an app or service that can be monetized. Its apps were silently removed from the Apple and Android app stores before the deal.
Wand Labs’ chief executive Virshal Sharma recently said that his firm’s experience with natural language, semantics, and messaging apps will be the perfect addition to Microsoft’s ongoing AI-related work.
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