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Waterloo AI startup catches Microsoft’s eye
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Waterloo AI startup catches Microsoft’s eye 

Founded in 2011, the Canadian company, with offices in Kitchener-Waterloo, and Montreal, Maluuba is among the growing number of young tech businesses focused on the lucrative field of AI technology.

By February of the next year, Maluuba had secured $2 million in seed funding from Samsung Ventures. Within six months, the company built out an engineering team, technology platform and Android personal assistant application that rivaled Siri and Google Now in terms of functionality. In September of that year, Maluuba officially launched their Android application as a finalist on stage at the Techcrunch Disrupt.

It would take some time, but eventually, Microsoft took notice.

“We have agreed to acquire Maluuba, a Montreal-based company with one of the world’s most impressive deep learning research labs for natural language understanding,” wrote Harry Shum, executive vice-president of Microsoft’s Artificial Intelligence and Research Group, in his blog last Friday. “Maluuba’s expertise in deep learning and reinforcement learning for question-answering and decision-making systems will help us advance our strategy to democratize AI and to make it accessible and valuable to everyone — consumers, businesses, and developers.”

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Microsoft did not reveal how much they purchased the company for or other details of the deal, but Shum said Maluuba’s approach to research and engineering “directly aligned” with those of Microsoft.

“We believe that together, we can achieve greater scale for Maluuba’s groundbreaking work and accelerate our ability to develop software so computers can read, write and converse naturally,” he said.

Click on the image below to see the full Maluuba infographic

320 Maluuba infofraphic AI

Maluuba’s founders deeply believe that understanding the human language is the “Holy Grail” in the field of artificial intelligence.

“Ever since we were classmates in our AI course (CS 486) at the University of Waterloo, way back in the summer of 2010, our vision has been to solve artificial general intelligence by creating literate machines that could think, reason and communicate like humans,” a post by Pasupalak and Sumelan on their company’s Web site reads. “…. In early 2014, we observed great leaps in the fields of computer vision and speech recognition and pondered the potential of Deep Learning and Reinforcement Learning to enable our mission of creating literate machines.”

They realized that there were huge opportunities in the study of how machines can learn to model the decision-making capabilities of the human brain.

“This meant more than simple pattern matching on text, but building systems that can actually comprehend, synthesize, infer and make logical decisions like humans,” they said. ”So far, our team has focused on the areas of machine reading comprehension, dialogue understanding, and general (human) intelligence capabilities such as memory, common-sense reasoning, and information seeking behavior.”

Partnering with Microsoft enables Maluuba to reach out to a larger number of customers and enterprise users that can benefit from AI technologies. It also opens up to the company the use of Microsoft’s resources and back-end infrastructures such as Microsoft Azure and GPU.

 

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