Microsoft answers Google’s big data analytics bet, antes with conversational intelligence at Build 2016

The software giant debuted cognitive computing and machine learning tools on Wednesday with an eye toward 'reinventing' healthcare.
By Tom Sullivan
10:04 AM
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Microsoft unveiled a slew of new products at its Build 2016 conference in San Francisco on Wednesday. They offered cues about the emerging technologies healthcare CIOs and IT professionals should be keeping an eye on right now: artificial intelligence, cognitive computing and what CEO Satya Nadella called conversational intelligence.

"Conversations as-a-platform is a simple concept yet very powerful in impact," Nadella said. "It’s about taking the power of human language and applying it more pervasively into our computing."

[Also: What is Fast Analytics, and what can your hospital learn from it?]

The unveiling of Microsoft’s new conversational intelligence tool comes close on the heels of Google's GCP Next confab this past week, where the search giant revealed its Cloud Machine Learning family of hosted applications.

The software giant rechristened its Cortana Analytics Suite as the Cortana Intelligence Suite to deliver "the power of Big Data, Cloud and Intelligence to build the next generation of intelligent solutions, whether it is to reinvent healthcare, transform transportation or revolutionize retail," Microsoft’s data group’s corporate vice president Joseph Sirosh wrote on the company’s site.

Another new offering, Cognitive Services APIs, enables software programs to "see, hear, speak, understand and interpret our needs using natural methods of communication." Such services expand what Microsoft called humans perceptual intelligence and can be integrated into its other systems, including customer relationship management.

And then there’s the embarrassing Microsoft Bot Framework. While Nadella called bots the new apps, the company's artificial intelligence chatbot, Tay, suffered a racist drug-addled meltdown this week. Microsoft took the bot offline and claimed it has been fed offensive speech by hateful trolls.

[Also: Big data: Bold promise? Or hardest part of population health, precision medicine, patient experience?]

Microsoft rivals Amazon, IBM and Google, meanwhile, are also trekking forward into emerging technologies from AI to Big Data to cognitive computing to machine learning and beyond in a bid to ultimately enable healthcare, and other industries, to make more accurate, insightful and effective use of information.

"We need to infuse into our computers intelligence about us and our context," Nadella said. "We think it can have as profound an impact as previous shifts have had, whether it be GUI, the Web, or touch on mobile."

Twitter: @SullyHIT
Email the writer: tom.sullivan@himssmedia.com 


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