Research at Microsoft 2023: A yr of groundbreaking AI advances and discoveries


It isn’t usually that researchers on the reducing fringe of expertise see one thing that blows their minds. But that’s precisely what occurred in 2023, when AI consultants started interacting with GPT-4, a big language mannequin (LLM) created by researchers at OpenAI that was skilled at unprecedented scale. 

“I saw some mind-blowing capabilities that I thought I wouldn’t see for many years,” stated Ece Kamar, associate analysis supervisor at Microsoft, throughout a podcast recorded in April.

Throughout the yr, fast advances in AI got here to dominate the public dialog (opens in new tab), as expertise leaders and finally most of the people voiced a mixture of surprise and skepticism after experimenting with GPT-4 and associated purposes. Could we be seeing sparks of synthetic common intelligence (opens in new tab)—informally outlined as AI programs that “demonstrate broad capabilities of intelligence, including reasoning, planning, and the ability to learn from experience (opens in new tab)”? 

While the reply to that query isn’t but clear, we’ve definitely entered the period of AI, and it’s bringing profound modifications to the way in which we work and dwell. In 2023, AI emerged from the lab and delivered on a regular basis improvements that anybody can use. Millions of individuals now have interaction with AI-based companies like ChatGPT. Copilots (opens in new tab)—AI that helps with advanced duties starting from search to safety—are being woven into enterprise software program and companies.

Underpinning all of this innovation is years of analysis, together with the work of a whole lot of world-class researchers at Microsoft, aided by scientists, engineers, and consultants throughout many associated fields. In 2023, AI’s transition from analysis to actuality started to speed up, creating extra tangible outcomes than ever earlier than. This put up appears again on the progress of the previous yr, highlighting a sampling of the analysis and methods that may help even larger progress in 2024.

Strengthening the foundations of AI

AI with constructive societal impression is the sum of a number of integral transferring components, together with the AI fashions, the applying of those fashions, and the infrastructure and requirements supporting their improvement and the event of the bigger programs they underpin. Microsoft is redefining the state-of-the-art throughout these areas with enhancements to mannequin effectivity, efficiency, and functionality; the introduction of recent frameworks and prompting methods that enhance the usability of fashions; and greatest practices that contribute to sustainable and accountable AI. 

Advancing fashions 

  • Researchers launched Retentive Networks (RetNet), an alternative choice to the dominant transformer structure in language modeling. RetNet helps coaching parallelism and powerful efficiency whereas making vital positive factors in inference effectivity. 
  • To contribute to extra computationally environment friendly and sustainable language fashions, researchers introduced a 1-bit transformer structure known as BitNet.
  • Microsoft expanded its Phi household of small language fashions with the 2.7 billion-parameter Phi-2, which raises the bar in reasoning and language understanding amongst base fashions with as much as 13 billion parameters. Phi-2 additionally met or exceeded the efficiency of fashions 25 occasions its dimension on advanced benchmarks.
  • The launch of the language fashions Orca (13 billion parameters) and, a number of months later, Orca 2 (7 billion and 13 billion parameters) demonstrates how improved coaching strategies, equivalent to artificial knowledge creation, can elevate small mannequin reasoning to a stage on par with bigger fashions.
  • For AI experiences that extra carefully mirror how folks create throughout mediums, Composable Diffusion (CoDi) takes as enter a mixture of modalities, equivalent to textual content, audio, and picture, and produces multimodal output, equivalent to video with synchronized audio.
  • To higher mannequin human reasoning and velocity up response time, the brand new strategy Skeleton-of-Thought has LLMs break duties down into two components—creating an overview of a response and offering particulars on every level in parallel.

Advancing strategies for mannequin utilization

  • AutoGen is an open-source framework for simplifying the orchestration, optimization, and automation of LLM workflows to allow and streamline the creation of LLM-based purposes.
  • Medprompt, a composition of prompting methods, demonstrates that with considerate and superior prompting alone, common basis fashions can outperform specialised fashions, providing a extra environment friendly and accessible different to fine-tuning on expert-curated knowledge.
  • The useful resource assortment promptbase provides prompting methods and instruments designed to assist optimize basis mannequin efficiency, together with Medprompt, which has been prolonged for software exterior of drugs.
  • Aimed at addressing points related to prolonged inputs, equivalent to elevated response latency, LLMLingua is a prompt-compression methodology that leverages small language fashions to take away pointless tokens.

Developing and sharing greatest practices 

Accelerating scientific exploration and discovery

Microsoft makes use of AI and different superior applied sciences to speed up and rework scientific discovery, empowering researchers worldwide with modern instruments. Across world Microsoft analysis labs, consultants in machine studying, quantum physics, molecular biology, and lots of different disciplines are tackling urgent challenges within the pure and life sciences.

  • Because of the complexities arising from a number of variables and the inherently chaotic nature of climate, Microsoft is utilizing machine studying to boost the accuracy of subseasonal forecasts.
  • Distributional Graphormer (DIG) is a deep studying framework for predicting protein buildings with larger accuracy, a basic downside in molecular science. This advance might assist ship breakthroughs in essential analysis areas like supplies science and drug discovery.
  • Leveraging evolutionary-scale protein knowledge, the general-purpose diffusion framework EvoDiff helps design novel proteins extra effectively, which might assist within the improvement of commercial enzymes, together with for therapeutics.
  • MOFDiff, a coarse-grained diffusion mannequin, helps scientists refine the design of recent metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) for the low-cost removing of carbon dioxide from air and different dilute fuel streams. This innovation might play an important position in slowing local weather change.
  • This episode of the Microsoft Research Podcast sequence Collaborators explores analysis into renewable vitality storage programs, particularly movement batteries, and discusses how machine studying will help to establish compounds excellent for storing waterpower and advancing carbon seize.
  • MatterGen is a diffusion mannequin particularly designed to handle the central problem in supplies science by effectively producing novel, steady supplies with desired properties, equivalent to excessive conductivity for lithium-ion batteries.
  • Deep studying is poised to revolutionize the pure sciences, enhancing modeling and prediction of pure occurrences, ushering in a brand new period of scientific exploration, and resulting in vital advances in sectors starting from drug improvement to renewable vitality. DeepSpeed4Science, a brand new Microsoft initiative, goals to construct distinctive capabilities by AI system expertise improvements to assist area consultants unlock at present’s greatest science mysteries. 
  • Christopher Bishop, Microsoft technical fellow and director of the AI4Science workforce, just lately printed Deep Learning: Foundations and Concepts, a e-book that “offers a comprehensive introduction to the ideas that underpin deep learning.” Bishop mentioned the motivation and course of behind the e-book, in addition to deep studying’s impression on the pure sciences, within the AI Frontiers podcast sequence.

Maximizing the person and societal advantages of AI

As AI fashions develop in functionality so, too, do alternatives to empower folks to realize extra, as demonstrated by Microsoft work in such domains as well being and training this yr. The firm’s dedication to constructive human impression requires that AI expertise be equitable and accessible.

Beyond AI: Leading expertise innovation

While AI rightly garners a lot consideration within the present analysis panorama, researchers at Microsoft are nonetheless making loads of progress throughout a spectrum of technical focus areas.

  • Project Silica, a cloud-based storage system underpinned by quartz glass, is designed to offer sustainable and sturdy archival storage that’s theoretically able to lasting 1000’s of years.
  • Project Analog Iterative Machine (AIM) goals to resolve tough optimization issues—essential throughout industries equivalent to finance, logistics, transportation, vitality, healthcare, and manufacturing—in a well timed, energy-efficient, and cost-effective method. Its designers consider Project AIM might outperform even essentially the most highly effective digital computer systems.
  • Microsoft researchers proved that 3D telemedicine (3DTM), utilizing HoloportationTM communication expertise, might assist enhance healthcare supply, even throughout continents, in a singular collaboration with medical doctors and governments in Scotland and Ghana.
  • In one other collaboration that goals to assist enhance precision medication, Microsoft labored with trade and educational colleagues to launch Terra, a safe, centralized, cloud-based platform for biomedical analysis on Microsoft Azure.
  • On the {hardware} entrance, Microsoft researchers are exploring sensor-enhanced headphones, outfitting them with controls that use head orientation and hand gestures to allow context-aware privateness, gestural audio-visual management, and animated avatars derived from pure physique language.

Collaborating throughout academia, industries, and disciplines

Cross-company and cross-disciplinary collaboration has at all times performed an necessary position in analysis and much more in order AI continues to quickly advance. Large fashions driving the progress are parts of bigger programs that may ship the worth of AI to folks. Developing these programs and the frameworks for figuring out their roles in folks’s lives and society requires the information and expertise of those that perceive the context through which they’ll function—area consultants, teachers, the people utilizing these programs, and others.

Engaging and supporting the bigger analysis neighborhood

Throughout the yr, Microsoft continued to have interaction with the broader analysis neighborhood on AI and past. The firm’s sponsorship of and participation in key conferences not solely showcased its dedication to the applying of AI in various technological domains but additionally underscored its unwavering help for cutting-edge developments and collaborative neighborhood involvement.

Functional programming

  • Microsoft was a proud sponsor of ICFP 2023, with analysis contributions protecting a variety of practical programming matters, together with reminiscence optimization, language design, and software-development methods.

Human-computer interplay

  • At CHI 2023, Microsoft researchers and their collaborators demonstrated the myriad and various methods folks use computing at present and can sooner or later. 

Large language fashions and ML

  • Microsoft was a sponsor of ACL 2023, showcasing papers starting from equity in language fashions to pure language technology and past.
  • Microsoft additionally sponsored NeurIPS 2023, publishing over 100 papers and conducting workshops on language fashions, deep studying methods, and extra ideas, strategies, and purposes addressing urgent points within the discipline.
  • With its sponsorship of and contribution to ICML 2023, Microsoft showcased its funding in advancing the sector of machine studying.
  • Microsoft sponsored ML4H (opens in new tab) and took part in AfriCHI (opens in new tab) and EMNLP (opens in new tab), a number one convention in pure language processing and AI, highlighting its dedication to exploring how LLMs may be utilized to healthcare and different important domains.

Systems and superior networking

Listeners’ selection: Notable podcasts for 2023

Thank you for studying

Microsoft achieved extraordinary milestones in 2023 and can proceed pushing the boundaries of innovation to assist form a future the place expertise serves humanity in outstanding methods. To keep abreast of the most recent updates, subscribe to the Microsoft Research Newsletter (opens in new tab) and the Microsoft Research Podcast (opens in new tab). You can even comply with us on Facebook (opens in new tab), Instagram (opens in new tab), LinkedIn (opens in new tab), X (opens in new tab), and YouTube (opens in new tab). 

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