Satya Nadella. Picture: REUTERS
Satya Nadella. Picture: REUTERS

Seattle Microsoft unveiled a raft of product updates and new services in security, artificial intelligence (AI) and other areas as the company tries to sustain the growth of its Azure cloud and Office software businesses.

At its Ignite conference for IT pros on Monday, CEO Satya Nadella said it is spending $40m to put its AI products to work in helping refugees, children and disaster response with bodies such as the World Bank.

Called AI for Humanitarian Action, the five-year programme is the latest part of the company’s AI for Good initiative begun last year.

One program will provide computer vision and facial modeling tools to help surgeons improve cleft palate surgeries for needy kids. The company will also work with the United Nations and World Bank to use AI and data-modeling software for disaster forecasting so the agencies can have supplies in place ahead of time.

"AI can be a gamechanger in helping aid response," said Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith, whose unit will oversee the program.

Microsoft General Manager John Kahan, who had been leading a team of data scientists tracking key performance metrics for the company’s executive team, will oversee the new program and report to Smith. Kahan, who lost a baby son to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, had also been using data science to find new approaches to SIDS prevention. That program will become part of AI for Humanitarian Action.