Satya Nadella

Sathya Nadella, Micro CEO stressed upon the importance of Artificial Intelligence at an event in India. He quoted it as an “ultimate breakthrough.”

In discussion with Nandan Nilekani, an Indian entrepreneur and the chairman of Aadhaar identification system. Nadella said, “Because, for all the advances in a computer interface, there is nothing to beat language.”

The interaction was made live on Microsoft’s page on Facebook.

The meeting between the two was also joined by the CEO of Flipkart, Binny Bansal whose e-commerce brand publicized the cloud partnership with Microsoft’s Azure.

Nadella called AI the third runtime. He further added, “If the operating system was the first runtime, the second runtime you could say was the browser, and the third runtime can be the agent. Because in some sense, the agent knows you, your work context, and knows the work. And that’s how we are building Cortana. We are giving it a natural language understanding.”

The CEO of Microsoft emphasized how AI has become the focus all Microsoft’s projects.  He stated, ” it[AI] is at the intersection of our ambitions.” Cortana has successfully proved its merits as a smart assistant takes users speech and maps them to individuals on a personal scale. It seems the technology is built to serve humanity at a personal level.

The Flipkart’s Bansal said AI didn’t have many takers until some time ago. He asked Nadella, “When I was in IIT-Delhi from 2001-2005, we had a course on AI, and nobody wanted to take it because nothing was happening in AI. What has changed?”

Nadella responded stating, “If I broadly talk about AI including machine learning, the thing that’s been most exciting in the last five years is this one specialized branch of ‘deep neural network’ that is fundamentally giving us human perception, whether it is speech or image recognition, and that’s just magical to see.”

Nadella referred to one of the projects undertaken in the state of Punjab in northern India by Microsoft. He stated, “We took all the call center data around public services and analyzed the speech so that the government could get a better handle on issues from people who were happy with their services.”

However, he cautioned against overhyping the merits of AI as it perhaps couldn’t be the best way for the AI to grow.

He went on to say, “We should not claim that artificial general intelligence is just around the corner.”

“I think we are on the right ladder this time… We are all grounded in where we are. Ultimately, the real challenge is human language understanding that still doesn’t exist. We are not even close to it. We just have to keep taking steps on that ladder.”

Nadellla spoke about his interest in augmented reality (AR) saying it keeps him “very excited.”

He said, “The first time I put on a HoloLens was to see something Cleveland Clinic had built for medical innovation… As an electrical engineer who never understood Maxwell’s equations, I thought if I had a HoloLens, I would have been a better electrical engineer. Overall I feel that augmented reality is perhaps the ultimate computer.”