Microsoft is advancing its development of artificial intelligence through cooperative agreements with five universities in Taiwan, where it expects to find talent.

After committing US$33 million to an artificial intelligence (AI) research and development hub in Taiwan earlier this year, Microsoft needs local professionals to staff it.

The R&D hub expects to hire 100 researchers over the next two years, doubling to 200 within five years according to a January 12 Microsoft press release.

Microsoft’s decision to set up an AI R&D center and partnership with local Taiwanese universities follows its long relationship Taiwanese PC hardware manufacturers and reflects the strength of local universities. Relatively low labor costs make Taiwan extra attractive, and – unlike China – Taiwan is not involved in trade disputes with the United States.

Talent and competitiveness

Microsoft Public Sector Lead Patrick Pan told the Liberty Times that helping schools develop AI programs will breed talent followed by employment advantages for graduates. Aid to schools will further accelerate Taiwan’s global competitiveness in the AI industry, and lay a solid foundation for AI, Pan added.

For now the American software giant will work with students at Taiwan-based Asia University to help develop AI applications and with those at Chiao Tung University on Microsoft AI certification courses.

Microsoft certification courses teach skills with hands-on instruction. They are designed to be consistent with modern industry technology. Students also get credentials that employers want.

Helping schools build what it calls “AI+ Experience Centers” and developing practice drills for scenarios in various industries will enhance Taiwan’s AI talent, Microsoft said as cited in the Liberty Times report. Today some anticipate a talent shortage.

Microsoft is negotiating cooperation agreements with other schools in Taiwan, as well. The terms and scope of each agreement will be tailored to the school itself.

Chung Hua University case study

Chung Hua University, the latest institution to join Microsoft’s AI effort, will be equipped with an AI+ Experience Center. The facility will come with more than 30 Microsoft Surfaces, which are touchscreen Windows personal computers, and a 75-inch touchscreen panel, according to a Business Next reportJune 27.

The university said the center is expected to open at the start of the 2018 academic year. No cost of the AI+ Experience Center has been reported.

The AI+ Experience Center will grant entry based on facial recognition and use a robot by Asustek Computer to simulate AI-enabled transactions at restaurants and shops. Students will design the interactive processes using Microsoft’s own tools.

Students will learn first not to fear AI, Taiwan Microsoft General Manager Ken Sun said in this Business Next article.

University Vice President Yu Kun-Ming said many of his students are afraid of AI but that the design of the AI+ Experience Center will draw them into it and help add this subject to university curriculum.

Microsoft has pledged as well to help university professors design new courses that incorporate AI. Fifteen teachers are expected to participate in the program and in late 2018 all five colleges under the university will offer at least one AI course, Business Next said.

The College of Computer Science and Informatics, for example, will open a class on AI in manufacturing. Students would learn to simulate operation of factory manufacturing equipment and do maintenance.

College of Architecture and Design students will be able to develop AI-based applications for connected devices in homes, while College of Tourism students can create applications for hotels and travel agencies.

〔Original :meet@Tw〕