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Microsoft and Alibaba AI beats humans at reading tests

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Sarah Holmlund)

Artificial intelligence (opens in new tab) has crossed a major milestone after programs built by Alibaba and Microsoft (opens in new tab) were able to outperform humans on a Stanford University reading comprehension test. 

This is the first time that any machine was able to outperform humans on such a test. 

AI experts at Stanford created the test to measure computers' fast growing reading abilities and Alibaba's software was the first to beat the score of a human followed shortly afterwards by Microsoft.  The test itself consisted of more than 100,000 questions and is considered to be one of the best machine-reading gauges in the world. 

Alibaba's deep neural network model was able to beat a human opponent with a score of 82.44 which was slightly higher than the human's score of 82.304.  A day later, Microsoft's AI software managed to score 82.650 on the test. 

The chief scientist of natural language processing at Alibaba's AI research group, Luo Si offered further insight to real world applications (opens in new tab) for the company's AI software, saying: 

“That means objective questions such as ‘what causes rain’ can now be answered with high accuracy by machines. The technology underneath can be gradually applied to numerous applications such as customer service, museum tutorials and online responses to medical inquiries from patients, decreasing the need for human input in an unprecedented way.”   

Alibaba has already implemented the technology and used its AI software to answer customer service questions during China's Singles Day which is the e-commerce site's busiest day of the year. 

Andrew Pickup, a spokesperson for Microsoft praised the AI software's score but stressed that AI is even more beneficial when working alongside humans, saying: 

“These kinds of tests are certainly useful benchmarks for how far along the AI journey we may be.  However, the real benefit of AI is when it is used in harmony with humans.” 

Image Credit: Sarah Holmlund / Shutterstock

Anthony Spadafora
Anthony Spadafora

After getting his start at ITProPortal and then working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches to how to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.