All The Important Things From Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's Keynote At Ignite 2016

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The first day of Ignite 2016 in Atlanta closed with the Innovation Keynote by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. He spoke about innovation and investments into artificial intelligence (AI) and how they empower us with the tools to solve the complex challenges faced today. Read on to find out more.

Tommy Carron will be reporting on all things Microsoft and enterprise IT at Microsoft Ignite Atlanta 2016. Read his previous post here.

He said that the cloud is a distributed fabric and not a single destination. Handwriting recognition and Windows Hello are some examples of Microsoft providing intelligence. We're getting to a point in the information explosion that we need to turn our attention to making sense of all the data that’s being collected. Technology needs to be used to democratise information and agents such as Cortana that can knows you, your work, life and the world you live in can assist.

Laura Jones, senior product marketing manager, demonstrated Cortana and how by getting to know your organisation and learning about you can analyse emails to proactively follow-up on commitments made. Health Insights is a new Cortana feature that uses machine learning and data from the Health cloud. It works with many apps including Wunderlist to help you keep on track of wider business metrics. It's all about getting the information when you need it so you can make business decisions.

Sticky notes works with Contana and Bing to return information such as flight data right to your rough handwritten notes. Satya spoke about SwiftKey and how a neural net that constantly learns how each user types across all their devices refines recognition.

Office 365’s most profound shift is that the data under each application is exposed in a way that allows intelligent decisions to be made across them all. Examples include Outlook's focussed inbox, Skype translator and the newly announce Tap and MyAnalytics features.

He said that customer service begins with the initial contact and that the Live Agent bot assistants help customer service staff improve their workflow on the backend while simultaneously interacting with customers. This is an example where AI is providing real value in Dynamics 365. New capabilities being added to the Cortana Intelligence Suite include the bot framework. Channels of user interaction include SMS, Skype, Slack and O365 mail. It was initially launched at Microsoft’s Build conference and since then, thousands of developers have jumped on-board to create bots.

Former American pro football and baseball player Deoin Sanders was asked if he'd ever tried a real game of cricket but responded with a puzzled expression. Instead Satya challenged him to communicate with a bot designed to pick a dream team and interact with fans. Microsoft has the world's speech recognition record at a 6.3% error rate in the switchboard test. Such cognitive services are magical technologies according to Satya.

Jennifer Stevens, principal program manager, then spoke about a use case of home remodelling using machine learning technology and Cortana Intelligence. The demonstration using Halolens making use of hand gestures was both technically and visually impressive. However, the scripted narrative from the actors was more fitting for a televised shopping channel segment.

Satya finished on the topic of infrastructure and how Azure now has 34 global regions support is now available throughout Azure before unveiling one last huge announcement. The world’s largest field programmable gate array (FPGA) deployment, deployed across 15 countries and five continents, is now available within Microsoft Azure. It provides the efficiency of hardware but the flexibility of making changes on the fly. Customers can interface with the technology through Azure service endpoints. He them demonstrated a Convolutional Neural Network processing the translation of Russian author Leo Tolstoy’s novel War and Peace into English.

Using 4 x Stratix V D5-accelerator FPGA boards the translation took 2.6 seconds at 7.9 Tera-ops. Improving on this result, he enabled the hyper scaled super computer in the Azure cloud, adding 1,000,000 Tera- ops to improve the translation speed down to less than 0.1 second. Much less that the blink of an eye to translate and entire novel and 10 times the AI performance of the world's largest existing supercomputer. This is the true power of the cloud.


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