May 21, 2018

Microsoft buys Berkeley startup to boost its speech AI effort

Ina Fried, author of Login

Team members from Semantic Machines. Photo: Microsoft

Microsoft said on Sunday it has acquired Semantic Machines, a Berkeley, Calif,-based company working on speech chatbots capable of natural speech.

Why it matters: The move comes just after Google debuted its impressive, but controversial Duplex speech technology at Google I/O.

Microsoft didn't disclose financial details, but said it would establish a new conversational AI center in Berkeley. The leadership of Semantic Machines includes tech entrepreneur Dan Roth as well as UC Berkeley professor Dan Klein, Stanford University professor Percy Liang and former Apple chief speech scientist Larry Gillick.

Semantic Machines had raised $21 million from investors including Bain Capital Ventures, General Catalyst, founder Justin Kan and former Yahoo CTO Ray Stata.

Go deeper

Trump threatens to "assume control" of Minneapolis over unrest

Flames from a nearby fire illuminate protesters standing on a barricade in front of the Third Police Precinct in Minneapolis on Thursday. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump threatened via Twitter early Friday to send the national guard to Minneapolis following three days of massive demonstrations and unrest in the city over George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody this week.

Details: "I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis. A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right," Trump tweeted after a police station was torched by some protesters. "These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won't let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!"

Editor's note: This is a developing news story. Please check back for updates.

Updated 45 mins ago - Politics & Policy

In photos: Protests over George Floyd's death grip Minneapolis

Protesters cheer as the Third Police Precinct burns behind them on in Minneapolis on Thursday night. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Cheering protesters set a Minneapolis police station on fire Thursday night in the third night of unrest following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in the city, per AP.

The state of play: Minnesota's governor on Thursday activated the state's national guard following violent outbreaks throughout the week, as the nation waits to see if the officers involved will be charged with murder.

Updated 6 hours ago - Health

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand has a single novel coronavirus case after reporting a week of no new infections, the Ministry of Health confirmed on Friday local time.

By the numbers: Nearly 6 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 and over 2.3 million have recovered from the virus. Over 357,000 people have died globally. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world with over 1.6 million.