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Microsoft Buys Texas Start-Up To Boost AI Capabilites

Microsoft has announced its intention to acquire Austin-based software developer Xoxco, who is credited for creating Slack’s chatbot Howdy. It is the fourth AI-related company Microsoft has purchased this year in its attempt to get an edge on the AI market.

Lili Cheng, the corporate VP for conversational AI at Microsoft announced Microsoft’s plan in a company blog post.

Xoxco was founded in 2009 and began working on bots in 2013 and is credited with developing the first bot for Slack — Microsoft Teams main rival — called Howdy, which schedules app meetings.

The companies did not reveal the acquisition price, but the purchase fits with Microsoft’s acquisition strategy this year, seemingly preferring to purchase instead of building their own tech.

Microsoft purchased Semantic Machines in May to give users a more humanlike conversation with chatbots or conversational AI.

It acquired Bonsai in June to “reduce the barriers to AI development” and simplify AI development by combining machine learning and simulation.

In September, they bought Lobe to bring AI development to everyone as Lobe created an easy visual interface that enabled developers to build AI models quickly, without having to write code.

Finally, they purchased GitHub in October to help “help fuel the next wave of bot development.”

According to the blog post, Microsoft plans to use Xoxco’s technology to improve the Microsoft Bot Framework, which supports over 360,000 developers who build bots for customer service platforms and Facebook Messenger.

Cheng stated that “with this acquisition, we are continuing to realize our approach of democratizing AI development, conversation and dialog, and integrating conversational experiences where people communicate.”

“Conversational AI is quickly becoming a way in which businesses engage with employees and customers: from creating virtual assistants and redesigning customer interactions to using conversational assistants to help employees communicate and work better together,” Cheng said.

Microsoft also announced other additions to its AI platform, including Cognitive Service Containers which allows developers to run AI-based services on internet connected devices and the new Virtual Assistant Accelerator solution pulls together some AI tools such as speech-to-text, natural language processing and an action engine into a single place to simplify bot creation.

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