Microsoft’s Voice Command: Cortana set to sound more human

Microsoft is acquiring conversational AI startup Semantic Machines in an effort to make bots and intelligent assistants like Cortana sound and respond more like humans. Founded in 2014, Semantic Machines uses machine learning to make bots respond in a more natural way to queries. Semantic Machines is led by UC Berkeley professor Dan Klein and former Apple chief speech scientist Larry Gillick. Both are considered pioneers in conversational AI.

Microsoft’s acquisition will boost the company’s Cortana digital assistant, as well as the company’s Azure Bot Service that’s used by 300,000 developers. Microsoft has already used a human voice for its Cortana assistant.

The software maker worked closely with Halo developer 343 Industries on the eyelike visual elements and voice actress Jen Taylor for the voice of Cortana back in 2014. “With the acquisition of Semantic Machines, we will establish a conversational AI center of excellence in Berkeley to push forward the boundaries of what is possible in language interfaces,” explains David Ku, chief technology officer of Microsoft AI & Research.

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