Microsoft Open Sources Project Malmo, Another AI Milestone

by Ostatic Staff - Jul. 08, 2016

Without a doubt, cloud computing and Big Data analytics are top of mind for many people when it comes to hot technology categories where open source is making a big difference. However, there is an absolute renaissance goind on right now in the field of artifical intelligence and the closely related field of machine learning. Sundar Pichai, Google's CEO, recently said on a conference call, "I do think in the long run we will evolve in computing from a mobile-first to an A.I.-first world." Facebook, Google and many other companies have been open sourcing key AI tools as well.

Now, Microsoft has released an artificial intelligence system dubbed Project Malmo to the open source community. Startups should take note. Previously referred to as Project AIX, the platform is targeted to give startups an easy way to test out artificial intelligence programming without the need to build robots to test commands and comprehension with physical subjects.

The system, which had until now only been open to a small group of computer scientists in private preview, can help researchers develop sophisticated, more general artificial intelligence, or AI, that can do things like learn, hold conversations, make decisions and complete complex tasks.

According to a Microsoft post:

 "Katja Hofmann, a researcher in Microsoft’s Cambridge, UK, research lab, who leads the development of Project Malmo, said the system will help researchers develop new techniques and approaches to reinforcement learning. That’s an area of AI in which agents learn how to complete a task by being given a lot of room for trial and error and then being rewarded when they make the right decision."

"The AI researchers who have gotten a sneak peek at Project Malmo say another key advantage to the system is that it will let researchers compare their progress against the work of others, by seeing how well their theories perform in the same environment."

 This project from Microsoft arrives as several other notable AI projects have been contributed as open source from technology leaders.

Google has open sourced a program called TensorFlow. It’s based on the same internal toolset that Google has spent years developing to support its AI software and other predictive and analytics programs. You can find out more about TensorFlow at its site, and you might be surprised to learn that it is the engine behind several Google tools you may already use, including Google Photos and the speech recognition found in the Google app.

According to Google, TensorFlow could help speed up processes ranging from drug discovery to processing astronomy-related data sets.

Additionally, we reported on how, formerly known as Oxdata, has announced a new funding round that it is getting to the tune of $20 million. The money will go toward advancing its machine learning toolset, and the company is entirely open source-focused. We recently caught up with Oleg Rogynskyy, VP of Marketing & Growth at H2O, for an interview.

Meanwhile, Facebook is open sourcing its machine learning system designed for artificial intelligence (AI) computing at a large scale. It's based on Nvidia hardware. And, IBM announced that its proprietary machine learning program known as SystemML will be freely available to share and modify through the Apache Software Foundation.

And, Yahoo has released its key artificial intelligence software (AI) under an open source license. The company previously developed a library called CaffeOnSpark to perform a popular type of AI called “deep learning” on the big troves of data found in its Hadoop file system. Now CaffeOnSpark is becoming available for community use under an open source Apache license on GitHub.

Notably, Microsoft has also open sourced the artificial intelligence framework it uses to power speech recognition in its Cortana digital assistant and Skype Translate applications. The framework is called, CNTK, and can help machines do things like understand speech and determine logical connections between photos. Microsoft released its Computational Network Toolkit (CNTK) as an open source project on GitHub, and developers are likely to leverage it to advance deep learning networks.