Microsoft buys Lobe, a small start-up that makes it easier to build A.I. apps

  • Microsoft has acquired a string of artificial intelligence companies in the past few years.
  • The team will keep working on Lobe as a standalone system.
The Lobe team, along with Microsoft's Umesh Madan, left; Gaz Iqbal, second from left; Kevin Scott, second from right; and Jaron Lanier, right.
Lobe
The Lobe team, along with Microsoft's Umesh Madan, left; Gaz Iqbal, second from left; Kevin Scott, second from right; and Jaron Lanier, right.

Microsoft on Thursday said it has acquired Lobe, a small San Francisco start-up that focuses on making it easy to train and deploy artificial intelligence models. Terms weren't disclosed.

Like Amazon, Google and other technology companies, Microsoft is focused on adding AI to its own services and offering AI tools to other companies. Acquisitions have helped these companies add talent in a trendy field.

Lobe's CEO, Adam Menges, was previously a machine learning engineer and product manager at Apple.

Lobe's service, which is available in beta, provides an online interface for assembling models that doesn't require coding, making it different from what's available from some other providers.

The system can make predictions based on data it's trained on from cameras, microphones and other data input systems; it can also generate new data.

The start-up does not have an extensive customer list.

"We look forward to continuing the great work by Lobe in putting AI development into the hands of non-engineers and non-experts," Microsoft chief technology officer Kevin Scott wrote in a blog post announcing the news.

Microsoft already offers Azure Cognitive Services for recognizing images, speech and language. But Lobe's team will keep their product going in its current form.

Microsoft acquired AI start-up Bonsai earlier this year, and last year it bought one called Maluuba.