Microsoft has just acquired voice AI expert Nuance for just shy of $20Billion which should be completed by the end of 2021.
This is part of Microsoft’s continued “big bet” on healthcare. In fact, Nuance and Microsoft have been partnering on products relying on voice AI for a while, but the acquisition gives Microsoft access to Nuance’s extensive portfolio of tech to complement its drive for more of the enterprise AI market.
Gartner analyst Gregg Pessin said that “The healthcare industry is primed for digital transformation. All of the digital giants have healthcare initiatives. This acquisition moves MS forward in that effort,” and “provides Microsoft access to Nuance’s well-established healthcare client base — think EHRs with digital transcription capabilities“.
Announced earlier this year, but now formally approved, this is one of Microsoft’s biggest acquisitions to date, though it is still shy of their biggest acquisition to date, which was their acquisition of LinkedIn for $26.2 billion.
Who is Nuance?
Nuance is known by many as the company that “helped make Apple’s Siri”, but in fact their voice technology is used in several ways and across many different industries including the health, science, and medical sector.
Microsoft has been working with Nuance since 2019 and has worked vigorously in the health care industry (a huge focus sector for Microsoft) to help doctors capture medical information from patients during care. Microsoft has said that bringing the Nuance technology and people into Microsoft will enable further rapid worldwide adoption of the technology across more professional industries.
As part of the announcement today, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella said: “Together, with our partner ecosystem, we will put advanced AI solutions into the hands of professionals everywhere to drive better decision-making and create more meaningful connections, as we accelerate growth of Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare and Nuance.”
Just health or wider applications?
Microsoft announced the “Cloud for Health” about a year ago – so this leap make sense in starting to put some more “guts” to their health proposition. There is clearly a lot of value in the AI technology that enables Nuance’s products to achieve the high NLP accuracy levels needed for medical/healthcare and medicine terminology transcription.
That said, it clearly would make sense i think that Microsoft might leverage this AI to work in a comparable way in other verticals which inhibit similar complex language and terminology such as legal – another sector Microsoft is heavily focusing on.
Other areas where this technology acquisition could help is in bringing smart AI and voice telemetry to their Windows 11 and Office applications such as Cortana.
For the most through, we will have to wait to see how this technology weaves its way into the rest of the Microsoft 365 and Azure Cognitive services stack, I guess.