Microsoft is proud of its work on AI, and eager to convey the sense that this time around, it’s poised to win. In June, it invited me to its campus to interview some of Nadella’s top lieutenants, who are building AI into every corner of the company’s business. Over the next two days, Microsoft showed me a wide range of applications for its advancements in natural language processing and machine learning.
The company, as ever, talks a big game. Microsoft’s historical instincts about where technology is going have been spot-on. But the company has a record of dropping the ball when it comes to acting on that instinct. It saw the promise in smartphones and tablets, for example, long before its peers. But Apple and Google beat Microsoft anyway. The question looming over the company’s efforts around AI is simple:
I know we’re just at the very beginning of this whole thing, but so far, I’m not particularly impressed with the fruits of all this AI work for us as end users. Things like Cortana and Siri generally just offer more cumbersome ways of doing something achieved quicker with other methods, and they demonstrate little to no “intelligence”. Knowing I have a translation deadline at 15:00 and reminding me of it is not really intelligence; it’s just a talkative alarm with an annoying attitude.
Much like VR, this just needs way, way more technological progress and breakthroughs to really be what its name implies.