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New Deal Between Microsoft and Xiaomi to Focus on Artificial Intelligence

New Deal Between Microsoft and Xiaomi to Focus on Artificial Intelligence
  • On March 1, 2018

In a world of rapid technological developments, artificial intelligence is no more a concept out of a sci-fi movie: It is here to stay and very much present in applications all around us. Even though it is still considered to be in its first steps regarding its full potential, AI is already widely used across not only tech companies but also other industries, like entertainment and transport.

The new deal just announced between Microsoft and Xiaomi that focuses on collaboration between the two companies on cloud computing, hardware and AI applications – with the spotlight on Microsoft’s personal assistant, Cortana – proves that AI is an ongoing investment for leading software and tech companies.

Xiaomi Partners up with Microsoft in AI deal

The two companies have partnered up before, as in 2015 they signed an agreement to test Windows 10 on Xiaomi products, while in 2016 they enhanced that cooperation by expanding it to other Microsoft services. Xiaomi seems to have a found a valuable partner in its attempt to penetrate the Western market: As the company’s popularity rises among users in Western countries, the option to run familiar software on a Xiaomi phone will hardly go unnoticed by users – or unappreciated. As Gartner recently revealed, Xiaomi and Huawei were the only two providers to see their market shares not only persist but actually rise despite the general decline. So could this new deal put Xiaomi in the forefront?

Although it is most probable that the exact impact of the deal will take some time to be felt, some details are already known. First of all, Xiaomi will be able to use Microsoft’s cloud services, namely Azure, to improve its storage and bandwidth potential, as well as to give a boost to its computing and other services where a cloud environment could be used beneficially. Further to that, the two companies have announced that Xiaomi’s newest ventures in the area of laptop and “laptop-style” products that will be powered by Windows software will be marketed in a joint effort with Microsoft – which will arguably lend the devices more weight in the Western market.

But perhaps the most exciting news of all is that the two giants will collaborate in developing a new set of speakers that will be powered by artificial intelligence. The technology behind Cortana will serve as the basis of this new venture, but it is unclear whether it will build upon Xiaomi’s recently released AI speakers – which were aimed at an audience which appreciates an affordable budget – or whether they will concentrate on designing an altogether new device – perhaps something more on the high-end side of things? In any case, it seems that this is just the beginning of these two companies’ collaboration on AI, as they have also stated that they wish to explore further projects based on existing Microsoft technology. These could potentially include Computer Vision and Conversational AI, and could spill over to Microsoft AI services like Bing, Edge, Pix, and Skype.

Developments Show that AI is the Future of Software

This focus on AI hardly comes as a surprise, considering the recent boost in AI we have seen in recent years. As Forbes points out, bits and pieces of AI are everywhere in 2018, from helping run essential services to bringing us the next big thing in entertainment. For example, online video streaming pioneer Netflix uses it to make suggestions to users, based on their viewing preferences and the series they binge-watched obsessively. Still in entertainment, AI applications like DeepStack have been trained to analyze over 10 million possible poker hand scenarios; when it played against 33 professional poker players selected by the International Federation of Poker, the AI program achieved a margin that was 10 times better than what professional players would consider sizable. This has led to scientists considering the game of poker “solved” by AI.

Another AI developed by scientists at Carnegie Mellon University, called Libratus, was able to gain $1.8 million in chips playing around 120,000 hands through 20 days. Meanwhile, researchers at Stanford University are using blackjack to test AI models. When playing blackjack, according to leading casino brand Betway it is a game of incomplete information and requires calculation of probabilities and variables to be calculated by players going for optimal play, which makes it the type of game suited for research on AI. Researchers also hope to replicate IBM’s Deep Blue triumph. The AI algorithm beat the Garry Kasparov, the World Chess Champion in chess in 1996 and again in 1997, after an unsuccessful earlier attempt. On another level, Elon Musk’s Tesla is using AI to combine cutting-edge fun with safety on the road, developing the first autonomous cars that will be able to take over navigating from the driver. The first cars are already on the streets and available to the general public, but Musk is also aiming at further developing his program so that it can really contribute to professional driving. Last but not least, personal and home assistants like Siri and Alexa, currently set to be shipped with the new generation of Amazon Echo devices on March 8th, have truly brought AI into everyday life.

It is interesting to see, as users become more and more familiar with AI and companies comfortable in experimenting with it, what more we could expect in the field of phone technology – perhaps the next smartphone will be nothing like we ever imagined.