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Microsoft is buying AI startup, Bonsai


If all of the big tech co’s agree on one thing at the moment, it’s that artificial intelligence and machine learning point the way forward for their businesses. As a matter of fact, Microsoft is about to acquire Bonsai, a small Berkeley-based startup it hopes to make the centerpiece of its AI efforts.

The company specializes in reinforcement learning, a kind of trial and error approach to teach a system within in the confines of a simulation. That learning can be used train autonomous systems to complete specific tasks.  Microsoft says the acquisition will serve to forward the kind of research the company has been pursuing in the field by leveraging its Azure cloud platform.

“To realize this vision of making AI more accessible and valuable for all, we have to remove the barriers to development, empowering every developer, regardless of machine learning expertise, to be an AI developer,” Microsoft Corporate VP Gurdeep Pall said in an announcement. “Bonsai has made tremendous progress here and Microsoft remains committed to furthering this work.”

Microsoft is among a number of high profile companies that have supported the four-year-old startup. Last year, it joined ABB, Samsung and Siemens in helping the company raise a $7.6 million round, bringing the company’s total raise up to $13.6 million, per CrunchbaseThe pending  move follows the recent high-profile acquisition of code hosting tool, GitHub.

“Going forward, we see a massive opportunity to empower enterprises & developers globally with the tools and technology needed to build and operate the BRAINs that power these intelligent autonomous systems,” Bonsai co-founder/CEO Mark Hammond said in a blog post. “We are not the only ones that feel this way. Today we are excited to announce that Microsoft will be acquiring Bonsai to help accelerate the realization of this common vision.”



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