Microsoft's machine learning research is awesome

As unlikely as it sounds, Microsoft is harnessing the power of Bing to help catch bugs before they can wreak havoc on users’ systems. Outlook is learning to figure out if a message is actually worth reading. And Excel is more intelligent than ever. All of that is thanks to one thing: machine learning.

Microsoft Research is a geek’s wonderland. We all know that. But when we read The New York Times’ article on Microsoft’s machine learning efforts, we were pretty blown away by some of the things they’re working on. What’s even more amazing is that this stuff is actually happening now – it’s not just theory.

In a nutshell, Microsoft is in a pretty unique position when it comes to harnessing vast pools of data to make their software and services even more powerful. Bing (and yes, Google) uses it every day when it corrects your spelling or offers a more accurate query, but what’s really amazing is how Microsoft could harness the same data and algorithms to do some pretty cool stuff, and earn a boatload of cash at the same time.

Eric Horvitz, one of Microsoft's leading machine learning researchers

Take Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing platform. Businesses are already using it for all sorts of things (it even helps power Apple’s iCloud), but it could do even more if Microsoft can harness some of its machine learning efforts and rent data sets and algorithms businesses can use to build their own prediction engines.

Besides that, Microsoft’s Eric Horvitz is using machine learning algorithms to do all sorts of cool things, like predict hospital patients’ risk of relapse, or the chances of a traffic jam. And on the consumer side of things, he’s been keeping every email, appointment and phone call he’s gotten over the last 15 years, all so it can be analyzed to make Outlook more ‘intelligent.’ So far, it seems to be working.

We’re not gonna rehash the entire New York Times article for you here (because that would be evil), but we really think it’s worth your time to check it out, if you’re even remotely interested in some of the awesome stuff going on behind the scenes at Microsoft. Suffice to say, anyone who thinks Microsoft isn’t innovative needs to take a long, hard look at this stuff.

Source: The New York Times | Image via Microsoft

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