Maluba + Microsoft logos

Just one week after acquiring Montreal-based startup Maluuba, Microsoft has announced to invest further in its ultimate goal of a thinking, conversational AI.

The company’s president Brad Smith has laid out plans to expand Microsoft’s presence in Montreal’s growing AI ecosystem by “doubling the size within the next two years of Microsoft’s new AI research and development organization (Maluuba) in Montreal.

As Brad Smith points out, Canada is playing an important role in Microsoft’s global business. Microsoft will invest in the lively canadian AI scene by fostering AI research at the Université de Montréal with a gift of $6 million and by donating $1 million to McGill University.

Each gift will be funded over a five-year period with Microsoft heavily expanding its presence in Montreal’s AI ecosystem.

Microsoft is excited to engage with faculties, students and the broader tech community in Montreal, which is becoming a global hub for AI research and innovation. Today’s news, along with the opening of Microsoft Vancouver and our ongoing work to create a new Cascadia Innovation Corridor connecting Vancouver and Seattle” said Brad Smith.

Microsoft to double Maluuba office size
Photo courtesy of Patrick Lachance – microsoft.com

Last week’s acquisition of Maluuba will help advance Microsoft’s work in machine reading and writing technology. The Montreal-based startup is one of the world’s leading deep-learning research labs, “focused on creating literate machines that can think, reason and communicate like humans”, Microsoft has stated.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard appreciated  that Microsoft decided to focus on Quebec talent, pointing to the know-how Canadian researchers and their expertise with innovative technologies. “In a constantly evolving global economic context, artificial intelligence is a sector at the cutting edge of technology that helps propel societies towards the digital economy. It’s a sign of recognition and confidence towards Québec’s strengths,” the Premier stated proudly.

AI, a way to make workers more effective

Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella has described the company’s view on Artificial Intelligence several times. Nadella has acknowledged the danger of AI to the job market, saying that “the fundamental need of every person is to be able to use their time more effectively, not to say, ‘let us replace you’.

Nadella says that Microsoft wants to democratize AI and last September criticized Google’s AI strategy, stating that Microsoft would not pursue “AI to beat humans at games.” Google acquired API.AI last September and since then has opened a new AI lab in Montreal, also investing in Canada.