The person chosen for the role is Eric Horvitz, previously the director of Microsoft's Research Labs.
“As Chief Scientist, Eric will provide cross-company leadership on advances and trends on scientific matters, and on issues and opportunities rising at the intersection of technology, people, and society,” a spokesperson for Microsoft stated.
“He and his org will be responsible for advising on Microsoft’s scientific directions and capabilities, including standing up new initiatives, providing guidance on company priorities and assessing important areas for investment in science and technology.”
Horvitz wrote a piece on LinkedIn where he outlined more details on his new role. "The focus of the chief scientist position is to provide cross-company leadership on advances and trends related to scientific matters and on important issues and opportunities rising at the intersection of science, technology, and society," wrote Horvitz.
"The role combines three of my passions: Advancing the frontiers of our scientific understanding, harnessing technical advances to empower people and organizations in new ways, and leveraging our best interpretations of the future to help guide our near-term investments."
Research labs are not uncommon in large technology companies. Facebook, Google, and IBM all have some. However, the title of Chief Scientific Officer is much rarer in these firms. The appointment, therefore, is a testament to Microsoft's dedication to research.
Horvitz has received the CHI Academy honor for his work at the intersection of AI and human-computer interaction and has been elected fellow of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM), Association for the Advancement of AI (AAAI), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society.