Microsoft has announced the release of three artificial intelligence tools to developers as part of a bundle of 25 tools in its Microsoft Cognitive Services suite.
The tools form the basis of three core services it offers: Skype Translator, Bing search and Cortana speech recognition. Microsoft claims that it is part of the company's "ambition to democratise AI and make it accessible for all".
The collection of tools will enable developers to add features such as emotion and sentiment detection, vision and speech recognition, and language understanding to their applications, according to Microsoft, which claims that they will require "zero expertise in machine learning" to use.
"Cognitive Services is about taking all of the machine learning and AI 'smarts' that we have in this company and exposing them to developers through easy-to-use APIs, so that they don't have to invent the technology themselves," said Mike Seltzer, a principal researcher in the Speech and Dialog Research Group at Microsoft's research lab in Redmond, Washington State.
"In most cases, it takes a ton of time, a ton of data, a ton of expertise and a ton of compute to build a state-of-the-art machine-learned model," he added.
The three new services are:
- Custom Speech Service, a speech recognition technology that, Microsoft claims, can handle noisy environments, dialects, jargon and accents;
- Content Moderator, a service that enables users to "quarantine" and review data, enabling unwanted material to be more quickly and easily filtered; and,
- The Bing Speech API, which converts spoken audio to text and, Microsoft claims, understands intent and can convert text back to speech.
The Custom Speech Service will be released to public preview today, while the Content Moderator and Bing Speech API will be available from next month.
Microsoft's machine learning push has played a big role in its attempts to persuade customers to migrate to its Azure cloud computing service, with the company taking an early lead in providing AI and machine learning technology in the cloud.
That was one of the key reasons for Watchfinder's migration from Amazon Web Services (AWS) to Azure last year.
"One of the things we want to do is to get the computers out of the way of staff as an overriding principle. So, if we can bring in Cortana integration with chatbots, then members of staff can be on the road and text in to see what our stock holdings are, or what we'd pay for a particular watch. It [interacting with the computers] becomes more conversational," Gill told V3's sister site Computing during an interview last year.
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