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Microsoft acquires AI startup to fuel AI capabilities

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Microsoft announced that it has signed an agreement to acquire Bonsai, an artificial intelligence (AI) startup based in San Francisco, to boost its AI and machine learning capabilities. Microsoft said its acquisition of the small startup is “another major step forward in our vision to make it easier for developers and subject matter experts to build the “brains — machine learning model for autonomous systems of all kinds.”

In its official blog, Microsoft said Bonsai has developed technology that will let experts with AI experience work with autonomous systems, reports Xinhua news agency. “The company is building a general-purpose, deep reinforcement learning platform especially suited for enterprises leveraging industrial control systems such as robotics, energy, HVAC, manufacturing and autonomous systems in general,” said the tech giant. Bonsai’s platform combined with rich simulation tools and reinforcement learning work in Microsoft Research will compose with its Azure Machine Learning running on the Azure Cloud with GPUs and Brainwave, it added.

Based in Berkeley, California, Bonsai was founded in 2014 and has around 42 employees. Bonsai said on its official website that it is building “the world’s first deep reinforcement learning platform that empowers enterprises to build intelligence into real-world systems.” It claims to have a team that “brings deep experience in machine learning and developer tools from the likes of Microsoft, Uber, Google and Apple.” Bonsai CEO Mark Hammond worked for Microsoft as an engineer in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Microsoft bought another two small AI startup companies, SwiftKey and Maluuba, in 2016 and early 2017.


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