Tech Giant Opens Up New AI Hub in Downtown San Francisco. What Is It?

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Microsoft is opening up an AI hub in San Francisco, further entrenching the city’s status as an epicenter for artificial intelligence.

The company announced the new AI Co-Innovation Lab located in 555 California St. on Thursday, billing its presence in San Francisco as a way for local startups and companies to better integrate artificial intelligence into their work.

“It has been incredible to see the pace of development and innovation coming from the Bay Area and we’re looking forward to working with companies of all sizes, across all industries, to bring their AI ideas and projects to life in the AI Co-Innovation Lab,” said Microsoft Executive Vice President Christopher Young in a statement.

So what exactly is an AI Co-Innovation Lab? Jun Yamasaki, the head of Microsoft’s lab program, explained in a blog post that the spaces are intended as a way for companies big and small to harness Microsoft’s resources and AI teams.

In nonbusiness speak, the lab would help firms get AI-based products off the ground with the assistance of Microsoft’s staff, while also promoting the tech company’s cloud services and software.

Among the partnerships already in play: A collaboration with Sony on its “computer vision” technology and a partnership with a lab startup to help nonprogrammers create code. Access to the lab is free for businesses who use Microsoft’s Azure platform.

The hub is the second of its kind in the United States—the first being in Microsoft’s home base of Redmond, Washington—and the fifth globally. It’s also one of the many AI-centered openings in Downtown San Francisco; Anthropic and OpenAI—two of the most dominant companies in the buzzy industry—have both reportedly been looking to expand their respective presences in San Francisco.

The growing volume of AI industry activity in San Francisco has meant an uptick in touring activity for office space. Real estate firms report that tenant demand from AI companies in the city currently totals up to 1 million square feet.

According to a July report from the Brookings Institution, San Francisco predominates when it comes to its proportion of generative AI job listings and the number of top-tier AI companies based in the city. San Francisco alone is home to 20 of the best-funded AI companies, more than the rest of the country combined.

President Joe Biden chose San Francisco as the location to announce that he plans to issue an executive order in the fall focused on the nascent field.

Earlier this year, Microsoft poured $10 billion into San Francisco-based OpenAI, a major investment in artificial intelligence to date that kicked off an AI arms race within the broader tech industry. Shortly after the deal, Microsoft began integrating OpenAI’s technology into its products—among them the search engine Bing and the Microsoft Office suite.

The product offering—dubbed Microsoft 365 Copilot—is expected to be available to the general public in November.

Posted September 29, 2023 by & filed under News.