Microsoft announced on Thursday that it has acquired Lobe, a San Francisco-based startup that makes a platform on which users can build, train and ship custom deep learning models. What makes its platform unique is a drag-and-drop visual interface that requires little to no code writing.

In a blog post, Microsoft’s EVP and CTO Kevin Scott explained that while breakthroughs in AI and deep learning are transforming modern technology, the process of developing and building theses systems is still slow and complex. As a result, fewer businesses are able to access AI and its potential.

With Lobe, users can drag in a folder of training examples from their desktop and the software will automatically build a custom deep learning model and begin training it. When it’s done, the user just exports the model and ships it directly to their app.

See: Special report: How to implement AI and machine learning (free PDF)

Lobe will continue operating as a standalone service supporting multiple platforms as part of Microsoft, according to another blog post from the Lobe team.

“As part of Microsoft, Lobe will be able to leverage world-class AI research, global infrastructure, and decades of experience building developer tools,” the team wrote. “Together we are committed to making deep learning simple, understandable, and accessible to everyone.”

Microsoft has made a bevy of acquisitions this year, including GitHub, four gaming companies and an educational video-discussion vendor. But it’s also maintained a keen focus on AI companies when scouting acquisitions. The Redmond tech giant bought Semantic Machines back in May in a push to accelerate its natural-language AI efforts, and in July it scooped up Bonsai, which specializes in machine teaching, reinforcement learning and simulation.


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