What is AI?

Artificial intelligence was once the stuff of science fiction. However, it is now no longer a promise; it is happening now, enriching lives through personal assistants such as Cortana, Siri and Alexa, and improving businesses in every industry, including healthcare, education, manufacturing, agriculture and transportation. For example, AI is helping hospitals more easily detect errors by recognizing anomalies in best clinical practices and save thousands of patients per year; enabling better analyses of how people learn throughout their lives so more effective and personalized approaches to education can be developed; and driving the development of precision farming techniques that can improve agricultural yield while reducing environmental impact.

It’s possible now because of the computing power and storage made possible by cloud computing. The cloud, combined with significant progress in techniques to analyze massive amounts of data and draw insights, can be used to enhance every decision and process. Together, these advances have enabled great leaps forward in AI technologies that are giving our digital devices and systems — everything from mobile phones to automobiles, airplanes and computers — the ability to perceive, learn, reason and make recommendations.

Simply put, AI is computational intelligence — a tool that is valuable in helping humans complete tasks and make decisions in a quicker and more effective manner. To give a sense of the speed at which AI can complete tasks, Microsoft’s AI system can translate the English-language version of Wikipedia into another major language in less than one-tenth of a second, or the time it takes to blink an eye. It has also learned the ability to process human speech to the same level as a human and provide for real-time translation of conversations. AI’s ability to learn and process huge amounts of data offers immense potential to enrich people’s lives, creating new opportunities for everyone and enabling humanity to tackle some of society’s biggest challenges. AI stands to deliver a huge improvement in productivity, potentially helping to grow global GDP by an additional 26 percent by 2030 ,[32] if deployed successfully.

Research into AI has been taking place for a number of decades. However, recent developments have quickened the pace of progress. Advances in the creation of “neural networks,” machine learning systems that enable computers to get better over time at recognizing patterns and making recommendations, have been particularly significant. This has led to breakthroughs in foundational AI capabilities such as natural language comprehension and speech, facial and object recognition.

Microsoft has a rich history in research and development of AI technologies and has been contributing to the advancement of AI for 25 years. Our vision is straightforward: We aim to amplify human ingenuity with intelligent technology by making AI capabilities available broadly. By empowering every individual to realize their full potential and every organization to innovate, AI can enable new socioeconomic opportunities and make it possible to address some of today’s greatest global challenges.

We do this by:

  • Driving AI innovation that extends individuals’ and organizations’ capabilities and makes them more productive
  • Building powerful AI platforms that make innovation by all developers faster and more accessible
  • Infusing AI into all of our products and services, including Office, Windows, Xbox and more
  • Taking a principled approach to creating human-centered AI that instills trust and keeps you in control

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