Microsoft has acquired Semantic Machines, an artificial intelligence startup which could help Cortana hold more natural dialog with users.

The California company has focused its efforts on so-called “conversational AI,” moving beyond the more basic back-and-forth currently supported by the Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, and Amazon’s Alexa.

Right now, talking with one of those virtual helpers could leave you doubting the “intelligence” part of AI.

A big part of that is their difficulty identifying meaning: effectively picking up on the thread of a conversation, and using that to understand different requests and commands.

It has built a number of machine learning components which work together for a smarter AI that can hold that conversational thread.

That includes a Conversation Engine which pulls semantic intent from voice or text and then creates a self-updating, learning framework to comprehend the nuances of that discussion.

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