Microsoft acquires AI firm Bonsai to bring more 'brains' to machine learning

Microsoft logo at Ignite
Microsoft logo at Ignite (Image credit: Windows Central)

Bonsai Team

The Bonsai team.

Microsoft today announced plans to acquire Bonsai, a California-based company focused on innovating in the field of machine learning. The goal of the acquisition, Microsoft says, is to use Bonsai's tech to make it easier for developers to "build the 'brains'" for autonomous systems.

Bonsai is responsible for a new approach to machine learning models that has drastically cut the time and expertise needed to train autonomous systems to accomplish tasks. From Microsoft:

The company is building a general-purpose, deep reinforcement learning platform especially suited for enterprises leveraging industrial control systems such as robotics, energy, HVAC, manufacturing and autonomous systems in general. This includes unique machine-teaching innovations, automated model generation and management, a host of APIs and SDKs for simulator integration, as well as pre-built support for leading simulations all packaged in one end-to-end platform.

So far, Bonsai has managed to use its approach to teach a simulated robotic arm to grasp and stack blocks 45 times faster than a similar approach from Google's DeepMind. Siemens has also used Bonsai's AI platform to train a model to automatically calibrate a Computer Numerical Control machine "30 times faster than the traditional approach," Microsoft says.

"We're really confident this unique marriage of research, novel approach and technology will have a tremendous effect toward removing barriers and accelerating the current state of AI development. We look forward to having Bonsai and their team join us to help realize this collective vision," Microsoft Corporate Vice Presiden of Business AI Gurdeep Pall said in announcing the acquisition.

Microsoft plans to combine Bonsai's platform with Azure Machine Learning, Azure Cloud, and the company's Project Brainwave to enhance its AI and training systems.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl