Tableau Acquires Empirical Systems to Bring AI-Powered Analysis to the Masses

Tableau Software has acquired Empirical Systems, an AI startup that originated at the MIT Probabilistic Computing Project. With Empirical Systems' automated statistical analysis technology integrated into the Tableau platform, Tableau expects that customers will more easily gain insight into their data, without needing to manually build the complex underlying data models that would otherwise be necessary.

Based in Cambridge, Mass., Empirical Systems has a team of engineers and data science professionals who created an analysis platform that helps customers to automatically analyze and understand their structured data. Empirical was co-founded by CEO Richard Tibbetts, who previously co-founded StreamBase (acquired by TIBCO); engineering lead Madeleine Thompson, formerly of Google; and scientific advisor Vikash Mansinghka, who leads the MIT Probabilistic Computing Project.

The addition of the Empirical team will help Tableau bring AI-powered analysis to the masses and enhance the way people interact with their data, said Francois Ajenstat, chief product officer at Tableau. The addition of automatic insight generation will enable people without specialized data science skills to more easily spot trends in their data, identify areas for further exploration, test different assumptions, and simulate hypothetical situations, he explained.

According to Tableau, Empirical Systems' Analytics Engine automates data modeling that would typically require a trained statistician and allows people to explore, explain, predict and simulate that data in real-time. Rather than having to test all variables manually or limit analysis to predetermined hypotheses, advanced statistical algorithms will enhance the user experience and guide people to relevant insights and trends that could have easily gone unnoticed. This makes it possible for people to solve common data problems—like detecting relationships between variables, uncovering previously unknown factors driving patterns or spikes in the data, and inferring missing values—without requiring them to have data science expertise or do custom statistical modeling.

Empirical employees will join Tableau and, as part of the acquisition, Tableau plans to establish a research and development center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The team will focus on integrating the technology into the Tableau platform, with capabilities Empirical has built available in future releases of Tableau.

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