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Microsoft’s New AI Keyboard Software

Dyllan Furness

Dyllan explores technology and the human condition for Tech Emergence. His interests include but are not limited to whiskey, kimchi, and Catahoulas.

Microsoft's New AI Keyboard Software

It’s been years since the common keyboard has had a redesign. But with Microsoft’s recent $250 million acquisition of British start-up SwiftKey, we might soon see a new face to the typing device.

Launched in 2008, SwiftKey has since become a hugely popular application by systematically predicting the next word its users will type. Unlike similar applications that make predictions based off databases of preprogrammed words, SwiftKey recognizes patters, evaluates meaning, and analyses the history of its users to provide a tailor-made suggestion on how to finish the sentence.

With the acquisition of SwiftKey, Microsoft is set to apply the machine learning technology to many of its products, to complete tasks from filling out a spreadsheet in Excel, to preparing a presentation in PowerPoint, or an email in Outlook. In a press release, Harry Shum, Microsoft’s Executive Vice President of Technology and Research, wrote, “This acquisition is a great example of Microsoft’s commitment to bringing its software and services to all platforms. We’ll continue to develop SwiftKey’s market-leading keyboard apps for Android and iOS as well as explore scenarios for the integration of the core technology across the breadth of our product and services portfolio.” 

Since 2010, Swiftly estimates that nearly 10 trillion keystrokes in 100 languages have saved more than 100,000 years of combined typing time by its users. This wealth of data is surely one of Microsoft’s big attractions to the product. But in the press release, Shum also wrote how, “…SwiftKey’s predictive technology aligns with Microsoft’s investments and ambition to develop intelligent systems that can work more on the user’s behalf and under their control.” That is, this is just the newest weapon in what Microsoft hopes will be an impressive AI arsenal.

Over the past year Microsoft has increased its investment into AI and engagement with the community. Just a few weeks ago the tech giant open sourced its deep learning and speech recognition software in an effort to democratize development and continue to compete with giants like Facebook and Baidu. Microsoft’s acquisition of SwiftKey again keeps them in stride and depicts the company’s value in AI. 

Image credit: SwiftKey

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