Microsoft buys machine-learning startup Bonsai

Microsoft is buying one of the AI companies in which it has invested: Bonsai, a deep reinforcement platform for enterprise/industrial applications.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

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Microsoft seemingly is on an acquisition binge as of late.


After buying GitHub, four gaming companies and an educational video-discussion vendor, Redmond purchased on June 20 another artificial intelligence (AI) vendor.

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Microsoft officials announced the company had signed an agreement to acquire Bonsai. Bonsai, based in Berkeley, Calif., is one of the companies that Microsoft's Ventures unit (now known as M12) had invested.Bonsai officials describe the company as delivering "the world's first deep reinforcement learning platform for the enterprise."

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Bonsai officials said the company has been integrating machine-learning and developer tools from Microsoft, Uber, Google and Apple to build its software and services to build AI for industrial applications, according to Bonsai's web site. (Cue Microsoft's "intelligent edge" campaign.)

Bonsai uses machine learning to "abstract the low-level mechanics of machine learning" to enable subject matter experts to specify and train autonomous systems to accomplish certain tasks. The training takes place inside a simulated environment, Microsoft officials said in a blog post published today about the acquisition.

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Microsoft plans to combine Bonsai's platform with Azure Machine Learning running on Azure with GPUs and Brainwave, its AI-on-FPGA (field programmable gate array) work. Models built using Brainwave will be deployed and managed in Azure IoT, "giving Microsoft an end-to-end solution for building, operating and enhancing 'brains' for autonomous systems," the Microsoft blog post says.

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