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Microsoft created a new artificial intelligence unit which will be merging Cortana, Bing, its Research group, Ambient Computing and Robotics divisions. The new division will be called Microsoft AI and Research Group and will be headed by Harry Shum, a 20-year company veteran.

This makes AI into a fourth engineering group, alongside Windows, Office, and Azure, as pointed out by Ars Technica. Microsoft added that Shum will be leading a team of 5,000 employees. It’s worth noting that Microsoft’s Research unit has about 1,000 employees and has been working on developing quantum computing, as indicated by this TechCrunch report.

In recent times, the company  has been pushing Cortana as virtual assistant competing with Apple’s Siri, Google Now, and Amazon’s Alexa. Earlier this month, Cyanogen started rolling out features from Microsoft’s Cortana voice assistant for users running Cyanogen OS 13.1 on OnePlus One in India.

Note that Microsoft had launched an update to Windows 10 in November last year, which made available its digital personal assistant Cortana in India, Canada, Japan and Australia. In India, Cortana has been designed to work with apps such as BookMyShow. The voice assistant also recognises Indian festivals and customs, reminds the user of upcoming events and reschedule meetings.

Tay chatbot

However, Microsoft did have one glaring misstep in AI when it launched Tay, a chatbot which interacted with people on Twitter. The company had to promptly take it down within 48 hours, as it almost immediately learnt to be a Hitler loving, xenophobic, racist white supremacist.

According to Microsoft, within the first 24 hours of the bot being online, a coordinated attack by some people exploited a vulnerability in Tay, which resulted in the bot tweeting the offensive tweets.

Collaboration on AI

Yesterday, Amazon, Google, Facebook, IBM, Microsoft and Google’s DeepMind launched a Partnership on AI where they will support research including ethics, fairness and inclusivity, transparency, interoperability, privacy, collaboration of people and AI systems, and trustworthiness, reliability and robustness of artificial intelligence.