Microsoft Brings AI To Bing For Smarter Answers

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Software giant reveals AI updates to its product portfolio, as it signs deal to bring Reddit content to Bing

Microsoft has signed a partnership deal that will transfer information from the Reddit community to its Bing search engine.

The deal was included in a number of artificial intelligence (AI) announcement by Microsoft, as the company said it was “infusing AI into the products and services people use every day.”

AI additions have been made to Cortana, Bing and Office 365, as well as new features added to the Seeing AI app on iOS.

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Intelligent Bing

The Microsoft partnership with Reddit will utilise Redmond’s AI tech alongside with Reddit’s vast data to “deliver the best possible search experiences for Bing users.”

Essentially, Microsoft’s AI will be used to deliver more conversational, nuanced answers to users and will utilise content from Reddit Responses, Reddit Community Results and Reddit AMA Discovery.

For example a user could ask Bing things such as, “How accurate is the TV series Band of Brothers?” and highly up-voted Reddit responses will be returned.

As part of Reddit’s partnership with Microsoft, Reddit’s data and API will be brought across to Power BI, to reveal how different brands are performing across the Reddit platform.

Of course, there is still question marks over the actual number of people using Bing as a search engine, but Microsoft insists it does have a sizeable number of users, and cites the fact that one-third of desktop search results in the United States are done on Bing, in part because of its use by Yahoo.

To this end Microsoft still sees Bing as a viable offering and has rolled out new AI features including Intelligent Search, Intelligent Image Search and Conversational Search.

According to Redmond, Intelligent Search (powered by AI) will deliver answers faster, and provide more comprehensive and complete information, and enable the Bing user to interact more naturally with their search engine.

It aims to deliver ‘Intelligent Answers’ that will be returned thanks to the use of machine reading comprehension, backed by Project Brainwave running on Intel’s FPGAs, in order to read and analyse billions of documents.

For example if a user asked Bing when Pembroke College in Rhode Island change names, it should deliver the actual date it happened, and not just general information about the establishment.

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AI Infusion

Microsoft has also sought to infuse new AI capabilities across its product range. To this end it has added its AI tech to Office 365 for Outlook, Word and Excel, so these packages can deliver more personalised experiences.

For example the preview of Insights in Excel will automatically highlight patterns it detects, which makes it easier for users to explore and analyse their data.

Meanwhile Cortana has also been tweaked with new hands-free, eyes-free capabilities to assist with email and calendar management.

There is also new Skills Suggestion & Chaining capabilities, designed to give Cortana the ability to understand users’ overall intent and offer the next most relevant skill.

Microsoft is investing heavily in artificial intelligence. In the Autumn, it was revealed that Microsoft Ventures, the software giant’s venture fund for early-stage startups, was looking for four artificial intelligence (AI) startups to share a total of $3.5 million in funding.

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