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Lobe, founded by Mike Matas, Adam Menges, and Markus Beissinger (center), will join Microsoft and continue working on their easy-to-use AI services. (Lobe Photo)

Artificial intelligence tools will never be widely used if it takes decades of expertise to put them into action, which is why cloud companies have been working hard to make them easier to use and more accessible. Microsoft took another step in that direction Thursday with the acquisition of San Francisco-based Lobe.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed in a blog post written by Kevin Scott, Microsoft’s executive vice president and chief technology officer, announcing the acquisition. Founded by Mike Matas, Adam Menges, and Markus Beissinger in 2015, Lobe created visual tools that can build deep-learning models with a drag-and-drop user interface, rather than lines of code.

Lobe will continue to operate its service under Microsoft, according to its web site. “We look forward to continuing the great work by Lobe in putting AI development into the hands of non-engineers and non-experts,” Scott said in his post.

Artificial intelligence is considered the next frontier in cloud computing — and computing in general — as predictive models and object-recognition technology continues to develop. Right now, however, software development and deep-learning modeling are two very different skills, and there are only a handful of companies that can pay top dollar for the experts who know how to blend the two.

But the demand is there, which means cloud companies are scrambling to find compelling and powerful ways to offer these types of services to the developers on their platforms. Lobe is the third AI startup to join Microsoft in recent months, following the acquisition of Semantic Machines in May and Bonsai in June.

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