WHAT DO YOU BUY the company that has everything? If Microsoft had an Amazon wishlist, it looks like it would be filled with artificial intelligence (A) and machine learning companies. That (entirely imaginary) wishlist is getting shorter all the time. Having recently splurged on Bonsai.ai and Semantic Machines, Microsoft now has another new AI subsidiary - Lobe.
It's a startup that aims to make machine learning a drag-and-drop experience with no coding required. Using Lobe, the user can drag in a folder of training examples, and watch the software built a deep-learning model to train the AI with. When it's done learning, the user can just export their model into the app.
The concept of making machine learning so simple that even I could do it may well turn out to be humanity's undoing, but Microsoft still thinks it's worth a bash.
"We look forward to continuing the great work by Lobe in putting AI development into the hands of non-engineers and non-experts," wrote Microsoft's CTO Kevin Scott in a blog post announcing its new toy. "We're thrilled to have Lobe join Microsoft and are excited about our future together to simplify AI development for everyone."
Microsoft is certainly getting to Lobe early - it only came out of beta earlier this year - but its founders do have pedigree. Co-founder Mike Mata has previously helped on little-known products like the iPhone, the Nest thermostat and Facebook's Instant Articles, which isn't a bad little CV (sorry: LinkedIn profile. He's with Microsoft now, after all.)
While Microsoft's blog post is a little light on details, as far as Lobe is concerned it's business as usual for the time being.
"We plan to continue developing Lobe as a standalone service, supporting open source standards and multiple platforms," the company's 'About' page reads, while adding that it looks forward to leveraging Microsoft's "world-class AI research, global infrastructure and decades of experience building developer tools."
Mmmmm: having cake and eating it too. Whether that matches up to Microsoft's long-term vision remains to be seen. µ
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