Artificial intelligence was the main focus of the 2018 edition of Microsoft’s annual event dedicated to innovation. Indeed, this ground-breaking technology was displayed in all its forms: machine learning, deep learning, mixed reality, vocal recognition… However, despite of the gold mine of buzzwords, Microsoft mainly directed the discussions towards the responsibility this technology revolution implies. As a Microsoft Partner, we attended the event and we are happy to share with you some of our key takeaways.
“We are living a new industrial revolution”
Carlo Purassanta, VP of Microsoft France, immediately set the tone by transporting the +4,000 people gathered in the room for the opening talk in the new world artificial intelligence will bring.
“We are living a new industrial revolution: artificial intelligence. It is an amazing opportunity to witness the rise of a new era”, he said.
As a matter of fact, the multinational tech company couldn’t avoid the mandatory topic of AI, as all its competitors did this year during their main tours. However, I was pleased that Microsoft preferred to focus on their mission rather than on the whole imaginary world around artificial intelligence.
For Carlo Purassanta, the triad of a high Cloud capacity, natural interface availability and AI power is leading to an everlasting change:
In that respect, the mission of Microsoft was clearly explained: empower every person and every organization in this new world to achieve more.
Understanding the past, building the future
“We strongly believe artificial intelligence will have a positive impact and allow us to work better, to live better”, said Laurence Lafont, COO of Microsoft France, also on stage. She presented a very interesting equation developed by Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, to illustrate the actions the company will lead:
This equation explains the level of technology impregnation of organizations. This level of impregnation is leveraged by two pillars:
• Change management, that drives technology adoption
• Technological capability of the organization
Microsoft’s objective is to help every organization achieve a higher level of technology impregnation through the mobilization of every team, and the development of new technologies inside the organization that will make each company unique.
It means creating a think-tank working on the ethics and technological problematics risen by artificial intelligence, called “Impact.AI”. Carlo Purassanta announced the participation of 30 companies, already working together to promote transparent algorithms, pooling resources and struggle against the bias AI can develop such as racism or sexism.
The firm also announced the creation of a skill lab and an innovation lab to create new use cases around AI and train the workers of tomorrow to prepare the ground for the changes ahead. These three initiatives were created for the same purpose: “Build an IA for Good”.
The goal of Microsoft regarding this outcome is very clear: accompany each company with its suite of tools already embedding semantic recognition, mixed reality, machine learning… and other up and running technologies that were demonstrated by many of their partners on stage such as Bouygues, Sanofi, and Sodexo.
Build applications, live experiences
What I retain from this forthright talk is that the tech giant definitely proved its capability to offer concrete business applications of artificial intelligence. Of course, part of the show was about demonstrating the value of its flagship products: Microsoft Teams, a major competitor of Slack and future substitute of Skype; Microsoft Azure and Dynamics; but the strength of Microsoft lies in its ability to transform every demo in a live experience.
For example, I really appreciated that the client’s case studies were transformed into a convincing role-play showing the impact of these technologies for the business. Thus, we observed the daily life of a service technician working for the Sodexo be revolutionized by the use of HoloLens to get a technical support in real-time: instead of requiring a support team, he was able to get instant help from his colleague, remotely showing him the buttons he had to switch through the virtual reality glasses.
We also discovered the meeting of tomorrow involving remote workers and powered by AI: imagine a meeting room where everyone wears a virtual reality headset; where participants are actually holograms from all over the world; where a virtual assistant takes notes and sends the minutes of the meeting afterwards… Even I found it hard to believe, but Microsoft proved it’s not just wishful thinking!
Watch the video of the demo:
To conclude this enriching day, we experienced the main attraction of the event: Microsoft’s escape game.
The “ReStart experience game” plot: a scientist loses the control of her invention. Supported by 5 teammates, you must help her solve her problem with tools powered by AI. A fun way to increase public awareness of the capability of AI and the technological advances of Microsoft over its competitors.
— UpSlide (@Up_Slide) 6 November 2018
At the end of the game, the players get a picture of he and his winning team and, mostly, the firm belief in the infinite possibilities that high technology will bring him… starting today!