The story behind the world’s first AI-created whisky

Opening new doors
Together, Mackmyra and Fourkind have, for the first time, used AI in the creation of a new whisky, by augmenting the capabilities of the master blender to produce novel suggestions.

Their partnership demonstrates how technology can be used to help people achieve their best work, while still relying on their own skills, knowledge and expertise.

For D’Orazio, the experience has changed the way she views technology, and the transformative effects it can have. “We always strive to challenge the traditions in the very traditional whisky trade, and that’s something we can really do now with the help of AI.”

“We see AI as a part of our digital development, and it is really exciting to let AI be a complement to the craft of producing a high-quality whisky. For me as a Master Blender, it is a great achievement to be able to say that I’m now also a mentor for the first ever created AI whisky in the world.”

The success of the world’s first AI whisky has also introduced new business opportunities for Fourkind, allowing it to use the same principles used for Mackmyra, across different industries:

“This AI-generation can have an impact in different industries globally,” says Kartela. “I envision AI systems generating recipes for sweets, perfumes, beverages, and maybe even sneaker designs, and I think we’ll see a lot of complex consumer products being designed by AI or with AI during the next few years.”

“We are showing the way forward, and these new AI solutions can be used to generate products that retain the spirit, look and feel of the brands behind them, while at the same time being new and unique. From medicine to creative tasks, humans will outperform machines in many areas. We just need to know where to use AI to get the most out of us as employees and experts.”


Fighting fire with AI: Unlocking the value of data in Seoul

Hongik University’s Professor Lee and his students used AI to develop a new model that can predict the probability of fires.

Nothing is more associated with death and destruction than fire. It can produce a primal fear in all of us.

So, when a university professor in Seoul, South Korea, challenged his class to use data to find solutions for complicated real-world problems, one student suggested analyzing information held by the city’s Fire Department.

The idea was to predict the probability of fires so that authorities could take action to make the city safer for its more than 9 million residents.

Hongik University’s Professor Jae Seung Lee and his students used artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms to develop a new model that can now do just that.

With Azure Machine Learning Studio, they ran different ML modules until they were able to predict fires with a 90% accuracy rate.

Maximizing readiness

The information they extracted from the datasets identified parts of the city with a high probability of fire – knowledge that has empowered firefighters to optimize their patrol routes and deployments.

Having more fire crews on duty in more “flammable” neighborhoods means they can respond to calls faster and so secure the safety of people and minimize property damage.

The analysis also looked at the locations of fire stations and spotted gaps or blank areas that were not adequately covered. Because Seoul is already a very developed city, you can’t just build a new station. Instead, authorities deployed more fire crews to stations on the fringes of underserved areas.

Professor Lee admits being surprised by some of the findings of the project.

“I used to think older districts, like Gangbuk, were more prone to fires. But the model revealed otherwise,” he said. “Newer districts, like Gangnam, are actually more susceptible to fire incidents, as there are more shops and people around the neighborhood. Illegal parking also plays a role.”

City authorities have welcomed such unexpected insights.

Jeong Joon Ahn, Director of Big Data Division at Seoul metropolitan Government said, “The project is a good example of what we want to achieve. We want to use the latest technology, like artificial intelligence, to make our city safer while using our resources more efficiently.”

The new AI model predicts that newer districts like Gangnam are more susceptible to fire incidents.

Building trust

The department had “a lot of data” about the causes of fires, their locations, as well as the casualty numbers, but they wanted to make sure the data would be shared in a way that protected citizens’ privacy.

To do that, Professor Lee suggested building a Microsoft virtual machine (VM), which kept data secure and restricted to only selected individuals.

No outsider, not even the professor, had access to original data. Instead, he had to work with “summarized” information, which he could not even download.

This cautious approach built a level of trust with the Fire Department that allowed the project to succeed.

Opportunities for the future

Professor Lee now wants to apply the team’s predictive model to other city problems, such as crime and traffic.

Currently, the team is tackling the issue of wheelchair accessibility across the capital. And, the university’s collaboration with authorities has paved the way for a “Seoul Metropolitan Government Big Data Campus” – an initiative that provides space for researchers to access public and private datasets in controlled settings.

To equip his students with the right skills for an AI-enabled world, Professor Lee teaches the essentials, like basic statistics and coding. But he also says they need more to have an impact.

“My students need to know urban planning very well and understand how the city works. That’s the kind of domain knowledge you need to define the right problems. If you’ve defined the right problem, the solution is much easier to find.”


Eureka chatbot helps California stay open for business

For California businesses, there’s an “always open” sign at the Secretary of State’s Office. It comes in the form of a new online search assistant called Eureka, which answers commonly asked questions, around the clock.

“Eureka is our chatbot,” said Betsy Bogart, chief of the Business Programs Division. “Using artificial intelligence, it is an easy way for our customers to get information about business entities and trademarks.”

With more than 500,000 customers asking questions on those topics in 2018, the smart search assistant is helping users navigate the Secretary of State’s website to quickly and easily obtain the information they need. It’s also part of Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s Digital Initiative to modernize and digitize the agency and make it easier to do business in California.

“The goal is to have multiple avenues where customers—business owners, entrepreneurs, professionals—can get information related to business entities and trademarks online, 24/7,” Bogart added.

Powered by Microsoft Azure, artificial intelligence and Cognitive Services Bot Framework, Eureka was launched in a matter of days, said CIO Rita Gass and has been honored with:

The innovative chatbot enables customers to ask questions, such as “How do I get a copy of a filed document?” and access the most relevant, useful information. Since launch, Eureka has answered more than 77,000 inquiries.

“As Eureka is asked questions, Eureka gets smarter each time,” Bogart explained. “The Microsoft tool makes it very easy for our staff to help Eureka get smarter as we go.”

Gass noted that Eureka is part of the Secretary of State’s Office commitment to modernize and create efficiencies when providing citizen services, adding the organization is the first state-level department or agency to use AI and the Bot Framework. The chatbot’s automated responses to routine queries about business registration help:

  • Shorten time-to-information for the public seeking answers.
  • Increase staff productivity by allowing them to focus on more complex queries instead of manually answering routine questions.
  • Reduce time to develop and roll out new digital tools and services to fulfill its responsibilities to citizens.

With Eureka fully deployed, handling many routine requests and fulfilling the Secretary of State’s Office biggest challenge of quickly and securely supporting customer information requirements, the staff is now looking into expanding the chatbot to accommodate more languages and offer archival and elections information.

“Instead of customers having to go the old-school route, they actually can just use the resources available to them at home and get the information faster,” said Shannon Delgado, manager, Business Programs Division. “Developing Eureka was a very positive experience, knowing that Eureka would help make it easier to do business in California.

“Without having an IT background, I found the Microsoft QnA Maker very easy to use, with minimal training,” Delgado continued. She explained that Eureka was selected as the name because it’s part of California’s state motto and was used during the historic gold rush to mean, “I have found it.” “So, our hope is that customers will use Eureka and find the answer they are seeking.”

You can find out more about Eureka in this short video and gain insights into the future of AI technology in government here.


How data and AI are helping Deschutes Brewery respond to beer trends faster

Transform recently sat down with several Microsoft customers at an event highlighting emerging trends in data and artificial intelligence (AI). We spoke with Kyle Kotaich, operations technology lead at Deschutes Brewery, a craft beer maker based in Bend, Oregon, that combines data science with brewing expertise to deliver better beer and run a more efficient business.

TRANSFORM: How does AI help you run a better business?

KYLE KOTAICH: It takes a little while for us to get a new beer from, say, pub scale or research and development, all the way to production scale when a trend is still hot.

So, one of the things that we talk about amongst the team is, ’Are we able to use data and AI to spot trends, maybe in other parts of the country or even other parts of the world and make a correlation and predict what a trend might be?’ And that way we can be less reactive and more progressive.

Kyle Kotaich, operations technology lead at Deschutes Brewery.
Kyle Kotaich.

TRANSFORM: Are the people outside your technology team using data and AI?

KOTAICH: We have a lot of support from other departments. Within our brewing quality and packaging group, [which handles] the actual manufacturing of the product, people are very comfortable with the concept of what we’re doing and how we’re using machine learning to become more efficient. Getting people to think about the possibilities is the first step.

TRANSFORM: Is the technology around data and AI improving?

KOTAICH: I definitely think so. Our goal is to increase operator and business awareness just by using these tools and making them very available — whether that’s real time data, predictive analytics or just access to raw data.

Our Azure SQL Database has been really great for combining a bunch of data. And once it’s there, there’s so many options. We use Azure Machine Learning Studio to do machine experiments. We use the Azure SQL Database to send text alerts to contractors that come in to pick up our brewery waste, when the tanks are full, and compost it. We use it for a number of different things.

TRANSFORM: Are the tools themselves getting easier to use for people that don’t necessarily have deep AI or data science knowledge?

KOTAICH: I can use my personal experience. I didn’t have any prior knowledge of AI or machine learning or data science other than my background in physics. And becoming a brewer exposed me to the value of good data for quality and efficiency.

I was able to learn the data science part of our projects really quickly, because of the tools that are available, whether that’s Azure Machine Learning, Jupyter Notebook, or all these different platforms that are available. They are very well documented and easy to use. It makes these projects feasible for anyone.

TRANSFORM: Where is Deschutes on its AI journey?

KOTAICH: There’s definitely a lot of room for growth. The projects that we’ve [undertaken], we’re still fine tuning them and we always will be. And I think there are really good cases to say we should continue doing these types of projects.

We have a brewery operations technology team. It’s a relatively small team, five people. And we’re looking for more ideas of where we can further streamline our processes.

(Top photo courtesy of Deschutes Brewery)


How AI is helping track endangered species

The Hawaiian poʻo-uli, a small bird from the honeycreeper family, was first discovered in 1973. Less than half a century later, it disappeared from the planet. 

Declared extinct in 2018, it is one of almost 700 vertebrate species that have been driven to extinction in the last 500 years. According to a United Nations report issued earlier this year to policymakers, one million species are at risk of extinction: Human actions threaten more plants and animals than ever before. Although the precise number of species on the planet is difficult to calculate, recent estimates put it at around 8.7 million. 

The plight of the poʻo-uli illustrates a key problem for conservationists: It is difficult to track and monitor populations of endangered species. Despite efforts to tag and locate the dwindling poʻo-uli population, scientists were unable to unite breeding pairs. 

Now, technology is offering hope to scientists. Collecting better data and analyzing it more effectively with machine learning and AI allows conservationists to make more targeted and timely interventions.  

Here are five ways Microsoft and conservation efforts are coming together to help endangered species. 

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Identifying lions and giraffes 

Lion sitting on grass, Masai Mara, Kenya

Facial and patternrecognition technology allows researchers to pinpoint and track individual animals, helping scientists monitor populations and their migrations. 

However, without the distinctive markings of cheetahs and leopards, it is harder for researchers to identify individual lions. The Lion Identification Network of Collaborators uses facial recognition techniques to monitor population levels. Identification involves taking a high-quality photo and zooming in on areas such as whisker spots – something a computer is more capable of than the human eye. This technology helps reduce reliance on expensive and difficulttofit GPS monitors, which can have limited battery life. 

Similar technology is being used by researchers from Penn State University and the Wild Nature Institute to study the births, deaths and movements of more than 3,000 giraffes in northern Tanzania 

Habitat loss and illegal hunting for meat have meant giraffe populations have experienced a dramatic decline in recent years. Patternrecognition technology trained to identify the unique markings on a giraffe’s torso can now process images in minutes, a task that previously took conservationists weeks. 

Monitoring the impact of humans on grizzly bear populations 

Clayton Lamb, a researcher at the University of Alberta, Canada, is using Microsoft Azure tools along with AI to create a comprehensive analysis of the human and environmental factors limiting grizzly bear density in British Columbia 

With human populations increasingly expanding into areas of wilderness, the grizzly is coming under threat as its habitat is shrinking. These roaming omnivores are particularly sensitive to human disturbance, and globally now live in an area only about half their original range 

Lamb uses DNA sampling and GPS collars to track individual bears in order to better understand the connectivity between populations and their habitats at a granular level. By generating such specific data, he is able to move his work beyond theoretical population ecology and suggest steps to reduce the impact of humans on wildlife populations.

Assessing whale health and feeding patterns 

At Duke University in North Carolina, scientists are using marine robotics and remotesensing, machinelearning models on Microsoft Azure to assess data relating to the size and health of whales. 

As oceans warm, krill stocks – a critical whale food – are falling, while fishing and commercial exploitation of habitats are also placing a strain on whale populations. 

Given the distances whales travel, monitoring their movements using traditional methods is both time-consuming and expensive. Neural networks have allowed scientists to link multiple systems, including satellites, drones and autonomous underwater vehicles, to paint a more comprehensive picture of the migration and health of these great animals.

Tracking penguin populations 

Penguins playing

Monitoring penguin populations in remote habitats is also difficult work. Identifying colonies often involves looking for hard-to-find markers such as guano stains on rocks of a very similar color.  

Ecologist Heather J. Lynch, from the Department of Ecology and Evolution, Stony Brook University, is coupling AI capabilities with predictive population modelling to allow real-time tracking of Antarctic penguins. 

She’s using computer vision to search for guano stains in satellite imagery in order to inform and develop the classification algorithms that generate population estimates for colonies.  

Protecting elephants from poachers 

It is estimated that an elephant was killed every 15 minutes between 2007 and 2014 – and that 25,000 to 35,000 were killed each year by poachers for their ivory.    

With huge areas to monitor, defending these animals is a challenge. Resources can be thinly spread, communication can be patchy and gathering usable data tricky. 

The Elephant Listening Project is helping protect the threatened forest elephant. Teams at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, with assistance from Conservation Metrics based in Santa Cruz, Californiaare using AI to identify and analyze recordings of elephant calls, helping to create an elephant dictionary by matching noises to behavior 

A growing understanding of elephant communication is allowing researchers to better appreciate the impact of factors such as oil exploration, logging and poaching, as well as enabling them to coordinate conservation efforts more efficiently. 

For more on how AI can be used to solve global environmental challenges, visit AI for Earth. And follow @MSFTIssues on Twitter.   


How AI is changing arts and culture

If you were to ask people how AI could change their lives, they may immediately think of self-driving cars and chatbots. In a business context, increased efficiencies and advanced data analytics would be among the likely responses.  

But AI is also changing the arts, enriching people’s daily experiences, preserving culture and making art more accessible to those unable to visit a gallery or historic site for themselves.    

In July 2019, Microsoft announced a new and fourth pillar to its AI for Good portfolio, the $125 million, five-year commitment to use artificial intelligence to tackle some of society’s biggest challenges. This new pillar will focus on AI for Cultural Heritage, and use AI to work with nonprofits, universities, and governments to help preserve the languages we speak, the places we livethe artifacts we treasure and celebrate the people who have made an impact 

The program will build upon previous efforts including those in New York, with The Metropolitan Museum of Art and MITin Paris with the Musée des Plans-Reliefs; and in southwestern Mexico, where Microsoft is engaged as part of ongoing efforts to preserve languages.   

AI is also a creative force able to compose music, write novels and paint pictures. Here are seven examples of how AI is enriching our cultural lives.  

Virtual visits 

The great buildings and historical sites of the world may attract millions of tourists a year, but many more people have only seen pictures. That is beginning to change. 

YouTube Video

Microsoft AI is being used to help preserve records of historic sites and bring people closer to some of the wonders of the world. Teams from the French company Iconem have used cameras and drones to create 3-D digital models of landmarks from Cambodia to Syria. 

In Paris at the Musée des Plans-Reliefs, Microsoft partnered with Iconem and HoloForge Interactive to create an immersive experience using mixed reality and AI that pays homage to the French cultural icon Mont-Saint-Michel, off the coast of Normandy. 

Visitors can interact with the exhibits and discover information and stories about the site. 

Open access 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art launched its Open Access initiative in 2017, making all images and data relating to public-domain artworks in its vast collection available to everyone online. The Met recently collaborated with Microsoft and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to help take this initiative to the next level, using artificial intelligence to explore new ways for global audiences to discover, learn and create with one of the world’s foremost art collections. 

Language Preservation  

There are more than 7,000 languages in the world, a third of which have fewer than 1,000 people who continue to speak them. In southwestern Mexico, Microsoft is engaged as one of the community partners in efforts to preserve languages spoken in the region, specifically Yucatec Maya and Queretaro Otomi. By using AI, Microsoft has helped to protect endangered languages. 

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Interpreting expressions 

Enigmatic expressions like those worn by the Mona Lisa or seen on the faces of countless statues of Buddha, invite the viewer to speculate on what the subjects was thinking or feeling. 

But researchers in Japan are revolutionizing the way we think about this phenomenon, using facial recognition software. They used Azure Cognitive Services Face API to analyze 200 statues of Buddha, including the mysterious expressions of the Ashura Buddha at the Kofukuji Temple in Nara 

Traditionally, Buddhist statues would have shown faces devoid of emotion. But in their creation, the Kofukuji statues’ faces may have been influenced by their sculptors’ moods and may carry traces of detectable emotion, which the project sought to investigate. The aim of the project was “to provide people with a means for reaffirming the beauty of Buddhism,” according to Professor Syun’ichi Sekine. 

Beyond Microsoft’s efforts, these are just some of the ways AI is already changing the arts: 

Robot writers 

In 2019, OpenAI announced that it had created a language algorithm that could write text that was indistinguishable from that written by a human. The GPT-2 program has not been released as a fully trained version, as its makers claim they are concerned about the potential “malicious applications of the technology.” 

Whether that concern is justified, AI is already writing both news and fiction. In 2014, the Los Angeles Times reported on an earthquake that had just hit the city, with an article automatically generated by its Quakebot algorithm. And Guardian Australia has run an experiment in publishing an article written by a program called ReporterMate. Such developments are intended to produce straightforward news items with as little human intervention as possible, leaving editorial staff and reporters free to focus their efforts on more complex or nuanced activities, such as investigations or opinion pieces. 

AI has also been credited with writing its first novel, the Road, an account of a road trip written by a computer hooked up to a GPS, microphone and camera.  

Painting by numbers 

In October 2018, the sale of the painting “Portrait of Edmond de Belamy” for $432,500 surprised the art world. The “artist” was an algorithm used by the Paris-based collective Obvious. Members of the collective fed thousands of images into a computer, which then used what it had learned to create an original image. 

YouTube Video

The sale sparked debates about what constituted art and whether human artists would eventually be replaced by machines. But the people behind Obvious are far from the only ones using AI to create works of art. The HG Contemporary Gallery in New York has hosted an exhibition called “Faceless Portraits Transcending Time,” featuring prints produced by an AI program named AICAN.

Composing melodies and lyrics 

AI has been used in music for decades. In 1956, Lejaren Hiller used a computer to help compose the “Illiac Suite for String Quartet.” And the influential producer Brian Eno help pioneer a genre called generative music.  

Today, AI is being used to write so-called functional music for commercial clients like the video game industry, with tempo and mood configured to keep up with changes in ongoing gameplay. 

Another impact AI is having on music is in the use of algorithms that create playlists on streaming services. Not only are they choosing what millions of subscribers listen to, but they are also beginning to introduce AI-written music into those playlists. 

For more on AI, visit AI Empowering Innovation. And follow @MSFTIssues on Twitter.   


AI in health: Are we there yet?

Illustrated image of cloud infrastrctureIllustrated image of cloud infrastrcture

The upside artificial intelligence (AI) opportunity is undeniable for every health ecosystem stakeholder. You can feel the anticipation. By 2020, Gartner predicts that 70% of healthcare provider CIOs will cite advanced analytics as their top priority. By now, nearly every senior leader is evangelizing the value of a comprehensive, enterprise-wide AI strategy to accelerate their digital transformation.

It feels like AI is on the verge of going mainstream with 50% reporting AI as a top strategic priority to improve performance and cost effectiveness, yet only 4% of CIOs in their survey consider it a top priority for funding.  So what exactly are these AI leaders doing that is substantially different and putting them ahead of the pack?

Foundation first

A recent HIMSS Media Report pinpoints what these AI leaders are doing to create a culture of innovation.  In short, AI leaders start their AI journey by first building an AI foundation of innovation readiness and processes. To become “innovation ready”, Chief Data Officers will tell you that a critical piece of AI work is the groundwork for data preparation. It’s hard to imagine building a house without first preparing the foundation, and most organizations start construction on their AI house before doing the foundational data preparation work needed for AI to succeed.

Preparing data to be AI-ready involves more than just correcting errors, duplicates, or reformatting. Data needs to be extracted, organized, and labeled in ways that allow machine learning tools to generate the kind of enterprise-grade AI models that can drive transformative business or clinical process change.

Microsoft is reducing the time, cost, and complexity of laying your AI foundation

Very few health organizations are equipped with the tools, skills, and resources they need to do the data preparation groundwork that AI needs to succeed. That’s why Microsoft chose to host HL7® FHIR® DevDays 2019 in the Microsoft Conference Center in Redmond, WA earlier in June.  HL7 FHIR, or Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources, is an open interoperability standard that can extract and organize siloed data from disparate sources (20 or more databases for many organizations) into AI-ready data sets.  Collaborating with HL7 and industry experts, we hosted over 100 hands-on tutorials and hackathons, as well as keynotes to upskill our customers and partners to be able to install their AI foundation. We also joined top interoperability and AI experts from around the world to find ways to further improve the HL7 FHIR standard.

Beyond preparing data for AI, health systems also need a simple and safe way to protect, control, and track access to protected health data at scale. Open cloud platforms coupled with new AI dev tools are making it easier for developers to create innovative applications and to collaborate in powerful ways at scale.  At Microsoft, we share the same commitment and challenges to deliver better care so we we’re taking the same approach with healthcare development to help improve operational outcomes. For example, we first developed our Azure API for FHIR®as an open source project, and we’re doing the same with our recent FHIR® R4 and our SQL persistence provider projects.

We are also growing our open source healthcare team at Microsoft Healthcare with a focus on high-impact approaches to health data interoperability, working with stakeholders across the ecosystem of hospitals, care providers, insurers, electronic health record system developers. With an open source project backed by an in-house engineering team, the gang has been able to add features at an impressive rate.

Get started on your AI foundation

Check out AI Business School for a leadership crash course on AI strategy, culture, and responsibility.

FHIR® is the registered trademark of HL7 and is used with the permission of HL7 


Check out the ways AI is helping save lives in emergencies

Disaster can bring out the best in human nature. Emergency service personnel, rescue crews and volunteers work tirelessly, often putting their own lives at risk.  

Whether they’re responding to a natural disaster or other accident, rescue and relief teams increasingly use AI as a vital tool to save lives and to get help to the right place at the right time. 

These are some of the technologies from organizations beyond Microsoft that are making a difference in disaster zones. 

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Robot rescuers 

When a building collapses, rescuers will look for voidsspaces in the rubble where a person could be trapped. This is often slow, painstaking work in cramped and dangerous conditions.  

Enter Snakebot: a 5centimeter-wide robot equipped with lights and cameras that can squeeze into tight spaces. Developed by Carnegie Mellon University in PittsburghSnakebot can crawl, climb, roll and even swim. Prototypes were used in the aftermath of the Mexico City earthquake in September 2017. Operators sent the robot to search voids too small or unstable for people or search dogs to enter. Learning from that experience, the team that designed it now plans to add microphones and sensors that can detect hazardous gas. 

In Japan, the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant after the tsunami that struck the country in 2011 required robots to enter areas that people couldn’t. Teams sent a variety of remotecontrolled and autonomous machines to inspect and remove the fuel rods.  

Eye in the sky 

Drones are giving emergency services a bird’seye view of disaster zones, which is proving particularly useful in fighting wildfires.  

Using surveillance drones that can stay aloft for hours, and small quadcopters, operators on the ground can see how a fire is behaving in real time and the hazards in the way. Some drones are equipped with thermalimaging cameras or laserimaging systems that help firefighters build maps predicting where fires will spread. 

Researchers are developing ways of using swarms of autonomous drones to assist firefighters on the ground. The Defense Science and Technology Laboratory in the U.K. and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory recently ran the Swarm and Search AI 2019 Fire Hack competition, looking for new algorithms and AI applications for planning and executing complex drone missions. 

Recent devastating blazes like 2018’s Camp Fire in California demonstrate the need for such resources.  

Targeted help 

When a disaster strikes, large amounts of information flow into control rooms and emergency call centers. Making sense of it is vital to prioritizing the response and to deploying resources and personnel correctly. 

AI can trawl through vast quantities of data in a very short time, spotting patterns that may not be apparent to people under stress. Capabilities include prioritizing emergency calls and analyzing social media to create a picture of events unfolding in real time. DigitalGlobe’s Open Data Program, which provides high-resolution satellite imagery for disaster response, was used in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai in 2019 to identify damaged roads, buildings and infrastructure from space. 

In September 2018, Microsoft announced the AI for Humanitarian Action program in collaboration with the United Nations. This $40 million, five-year Microsoft initiative harnesses the power of AI to help with disaster recovery and supports nonprofit and humanitarian organizations through financial grants, partnerships and technology investments, in addition to technical expertise. This work is across the areas of disaster response; refugees and displaced people; human rights; and the needs of children, and is part of Microsoft’s AI for Good suite, a growing $125 million commitment to using AI to help unlock solutions to some of society’s biggest challenges.  

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OpenAI forms exclusive computing partnership with Microsoft to build new Azure AI supercomputing technologies

Multiyear partnership founded on shared values of trustworthiness and empowerment, and an investment of $1 billion from Microsoft, will focus on building a platform that OpenAI will use to create new AI technologies and deliver on the promise of artificial general intelligence

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI (left), and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI (left), and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

SAN FRANCISCO and REDMOND, Wash. — July 22, 2019 Microsoft Corp. and OpenAI, two companies thinking deeply about the role of AI in the world and how to build secure, trustworthy and ethical AI to serve the public, have partnered to further extend Microsoft Azure’s capabilities in large-scale AI systems. Through this partnership, the companies will accelerate breakthroughs in AI and power OpenAI’s efforts to create artificial general intelligence (AGI). The resulting enhancements to the Azure platform will also help developers build the next generation of AI applications. The partnership covers the following:

  • Microsoft and OpenAI will jointly build new Azure AI supercomputing technologies
  • OpenAI will port its services to run on Microsoft Azure, which it will use to create new AI technologies and deliver on the promise of artificial general intelligence
  • Microsoft will become OpenAI’s preferred partner for commercializing new AI technologies

The companies will focus on building a computational platform in Azure of unprecedented scale, which will train and run increasingly advanced AI models, include hardware technologies that build on Microsoft’s supercomputing technology, and adhere to the two companies’ shared principles on ethics and trust. This will create the foundation for advancements in AI to be implemented in a safe, secure and trustworthy way and is a critical reason the companies chose to partner together.

Over the past decade, innovative applications of deep neural networks coupled with increasing computational power have led to continuous AI breakthroughs in areas such as vision, speech, language processing, translation, robotic control and even gaming. Modern AI systems work well for the specific problem on which they’ve been trained, but getting AI systems to help address some of the hardest problems facing the world today will require generalization and deep mastery of multiple AI technologies. OpenAI and Microsoft’s vision is for artificial general intelligence to work with people to help solve currently intractable multidisciplinary problems, including global challenges such as climate change, more personalized healthcare and education.

“The creation of AGI will be the most important technological development in human history, with the potential to shape the trajectory of humanity,” said Sam Altman, CEO, OpenAI. “Our mission is to ensure that AGI technology benefits all of humanity, and we’re working with Microsoft to build the supercomputing foundation on which we’ll build AGI. We believe it’s crucial that AGI is deployed safely and securely and that its economic benefits are widely distributed. We are excited about how deeply Microsoft shares this vision.”

“AI is one of the most transformative technologies of our time and has the potential to help solve many of our world’s most pressing challenges,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft. “By bringing together OpenAI’s breakthrough technology with new Azure AI supercomputing technologies, our ambition is to democratize AI — while always keeping AI safety front and center — so everyone can benefit.”

About OpenAI

OpenAI’s mission is to ensure that artificial general intelligence benefits all of humanity. The OpenAI Charter describes the principles that guide it as it executes on this mission.

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

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Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications for Microsoft, (425) 638-7777,

OpenAI Media Relations,

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at


Meaningful innovation: Human ingenuity, powered by AI

This week, I’ve had a great time in the 110-degree heat in Las Vegas at our Inspire and Ready conferences (well, maybe not enjoying the heat so much). I’ve had the opportunity to share the role of innovation and the power of artificial intelligence with partners and employees from every corner of the globe. This is a really exciting time to be at the forefront of the AI revolution, and it’s been great to be involved in discussions about the profound effect AI is having on how we live and work.

Making the most of AI in business

Making AI real, and delivering tangible impact from it, is something we must work together to achieve. Our partners play a critical role in making the most of the opportunities that are only possible through AI. All week, I’ve heard stories of our partners embracing the power of AI to differentiate their services and extend their capabilities to create new business opportunities for themselves and great business outcomes for their customers.

For example, there’s Xanterra – a customer-experience-driven business that hosts 26 million visitors all over the world. Their goal is to provide world-class service and personalization for their well-traveled guests, many of whom are repeat customers at their different global properties. Xanterra’s challenge was that their properties weren’t connected, creating a gap between the high-touch experiences the company delivers and the need to personalize those experiences for guests. Our partner, RedPoint Global, used Microsoft AI to help Xanterra create a detailed profile of each and every customer by connecting data from more than 100 different sources. Now, they use this information to anticipate their guests’ needs more effectively and generate relevant, customized offers to each. Because of this, the Xanterra team increased their revenue with each touchpoint, elevated the guest experience and is sending customer communications more efficiently.

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So how can we help unlock more opportunities for people to use AI? Our new Microsoft Azure AI Accelerate Program is helping our partners take advantage of the opportunities AI can bring to their business. It focuses on helping grow ecosystems and bridge adoption barriers to create more value for everyone. We’re also making it easier for partners to access AI Business School by connecting each learning path into the Partner Training Center. In addition, we are publishing the AI Business School in a Box in the Partner Marketing Center, a set of unique assets to enable partners to lead AI engagements with confidence.

Making the most of AI in society: AI for Good

While the opportunity that AI presents for our customers and partners is huge, the potential for AI to positively benefit society through ingenuity, vision and scale is even bigger. Microsoft’s AI for Good initiative already has more than 300 grantees across 63 countries. All of them are using AI to tackle some of our greatest challenges that go beyond business — including climate change, humanitarian crises and enabling greater accessibility for the more than 1 billion people across the world living with a disability.

One of my favorite stories, and one that I was honored to share at Microsoft Inspire this week, is the incredible work of Wild Me, one of the program’s grantees. They’re using the power of Microsoft AI to track individual animals to monitor the health of entire species in support of conservation efforts. As a result, they’ve been able to identify 10 times more whale sharks than ever before in human history. It’s truly awe-inspiring and vital work.

Wild Me’s story is one of many showing how AI is positively impacting society and transforming the world we live in. Building upon our commitment to use tech to make a positive impact on society, we just announced our newest AI for Good program dedicated to the preservation and enrichment of cultural heritage. Through our AI for Cultural Heritage program, we’re partnering with the people preserving places of historical and cultural significance for future generations – such as the work by nonprofit organization Iconem, which is using AI to digitally re-create at-risk locations in areas of conflict. The program will also help communities preserve languages that are at risk of being lost, such as the Yucatec Maya and Querétaro Otomi in Mexico. Because of this, more people across the world will be able to enjoy historical artifacts – as exemplified by our recent partnership with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, making its collection of 1.5 million works of art that spans 5,000 years more accessible to everyone.

The innovations from the grantees we’re working with through our AI for Good initiative reflect our belief in the use of AI to inspire and nurture breakthrough ideas that have meaningful impact and can solve some of the world’s greatest problems.

I’m humbled by the work of our partners and grantees, and being at Inspire reminds me just how fortunate I am to help and work alongside them as they create what’s next and do really powerful things with AI. Technology is just one part of the story, and empowering people to shape and transform the world and do good are at the center of it. By encouraging our partners and users to create their own meaningful innovations, we’re working together to embrace change and find solutions to all sorts of challenges – whether they’re business or societal ones.

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