Microsoft invests $1 billion in OpenAI for supercomputing tech

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman (left) and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.


Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures

Microsoft has invested $1 billion in OpenAI and reached a multiyear deal with the artificial intelligence research startup to jointly develop new supercomputing technologies, the companies said Monday. OpenAI will run its services on Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform.

San Francisco-based OpenAI, led by Sam Altman, has continually emphasized that its efforts in the artificial intelligence space are through an ethical and social lens. Its mission “is to ensure that the artificial general intelligence benefits all of humanity.” Together, Microsoft and OpenAI say that AGI, artificial general intelligence, a term used to describe how a machine can understand any intellectual task like a human being, should be used to resolve problems such as the global climate crisis. 

“AI is one of the most transformative technologies of our time and has the potential to help solve many of our world’s most pressing challenges,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a release. “By bringing together OpenAI’s breakthrough technology with new Azure AI supercomputing technologies, our ambition is to democratize AI — while always keeping AI safety front and center — so everyone can benefit.”

Open AI was founded in 2015 and has been backed by prominent technology leaders such as Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, and Peter Thiel, a Facebook board member. The collaboration comes at a time when cloud computing services for Open AI have reportedly been a significant cost. 

Earlier this year OpenAI offered a glimpse into its GPT-2, a AI powered text generator that engages in reading comprehension, question answering and summarization. 

“We are in the process of porting our Rapid project to run on Azure,” said a representative from OpenAI. “Rapid is a large-scale reinforcement learning software we’ve been developing for the last few years, and was used to train both our Dota agents and the robotic hand.”

OpenAI has been an Azure customer since 2016, Microsoft said.

Originally published July 22 at 8:01 a.m. PT.
Update, 9:05 a.m.: Adds comment from Microsoft.


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