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Microsoft acquires AI startup Maluuba, advancing creation of literate machines

Velocity alum Maluuba revealed today they are being acquired by Microsoft. The company’s vision to create literate machines that can think, reason and communicate like humans will be now help Microsoft advance their strategy to democratize AI, and make it valuable and accessible to everyone.

With offices in both Kitchener-Waterloo and Montreal, Maluuba has grown rapidly since their beginnings in 2010, and and have received many accolades since then. They were one of the first recipients of the Velocity Fund, winning in 2011, and launched from the Velocity Garage startup incubator a year later in 2012.

So far, the Maluuba team has focused on areas of machine reading comprehension, dialogue understanding, and general (human) intelligence capabilities such as memory, common-sense reasoning, and information seeking behaviour. The team has published 14 research papers, and built out huge, complicated data sets made available to the research community.

Maluuba cofounders

In a blog post announcing the acquisition, Maluuba Co-founders Sam Pasupalak, and Kaheer Suleman stated Microsoft was an excellent match for their company, elaborating that Microsoft’s immense technical resources like back-end infrastructure (i.e. Microsoft’s Azure and GPU infrastructure), and engineering talent will help accelerate research initiatives, and scalability. The Co-founders excitedly thought towards the future, and ended their announcement with the words of T.S. Eliot: “In our end is our beginning.”

Harry Shum, Executive Vice President of Microsoft Artificial Intelligence and Research Group
shared similar feelings with Sam and Kaheer, envisioning the many possibilities the acquisition holds:

“Imagine a future where, instead of frantically searching through your organization’s directory, documents or emails to find the top tax-law experts in your company, for example, you could communicate with an AI agent that would leverage Maluuba’s machine comprehension capabilities to immediately respond to your request. The agent would be able to answer your question in a company security-compliant manner by having a deeper understanding of the contents of your organization’s documents and emails. instead of simply retrieving a document by keyword matching, which happens today. This is just one of hundreds of scenarios we could imagine as Maluuba pushes the state-of-the-art technology of machine literacy.”