AWS (Amazon Web Services) introduced a handful of new artificial intelligence (AI) services at its re:Invent conference last week. Among the new products are Polly, a more lifelike text-to-speech service, Rekognition, an image analysis and face recognition service that can be added to applications and Lex, a standalone version of the technology that powers the company’s Alexa AI assistant.
"Amazon AI services are fully managed services so there are no deep learning algorithms to build, no machine learning models to train, and no up-front commitments or infrastructure investments required," the company said in a statement. "This frees developers to focus on defining and building an entirely new generation of apps that can see, hear, speak, understand, and interact with the world around them."
Bringing AI Capabilities to All Developers
So far, few developers have been able to build, deploy, and broadly scale apps with AI capabilities due to the vast amount of data and specialized expertise in machine learning and neural networks required, Amazon said. Applying AI to a platform or application involves extensive manual effort to develop and tune many different types of machine learning and deep learning algorithms, collect and clean the training data, and train and tune the machine learning models.
Amazon said it is aiming to eliminate most of that heavy lifting for its enterprise clients, making AI broadly accessible to all app developers by offering Amazon’s deep learning algorithms and technologies as fully managed services that any developer can access through an API call or the AWS Management Console.
"The combination of better algorithms and broad access to massive amounts of data and cost-effective computing power provided by the cloud is making AI a reality for application developers," said Raju Gulabani, VP, databases, analytics and AI for AWS, in the statement. "Thousands of machine learning and deep learning experts across Amazon have been developing AI technologies for years to predict what customers might like to read, to drive efficiencies in our fulfillment centers through robotics and computer vision technologies, and to give customers our AI-powered virtual assistant, Alexa."
Now, AWS is making the technology underlying these innovations available to any developer in three fully managed Amazon AI services that are "easy to use, powerful and cost effective," he said.
Voice, Text and Images
With Amazon Lex, AWS clients will be able to build conversational interfaces using voice and text that is built on the same automatic speech recognition technology and natural language understanding that powers Amazon Alexa. The service should enable developers to add natural language capabilities to almost any app, the company said.
Polly, meanwhile, is designed to allow developers to add text-to-speech functionality to their existing apps such as newsreaders or e-learning platforms. Developers can send text to Amazon Polly using the SDK (software development kit) or from within the AWS Management Console. Polly then immediately returns an audio stream that can be played directly or stored in a standard audio file format. The service currently supports 24 languages using 47 different voices.
Rekognition is geared toward helping developers build applications that can analyze images, and recognize faces, objects and scenes. The service uses deep learning technologies to automatically identify objects and scenes, such as vehicles, pets or furniture, and provides a confidence score that lets developers tag images so that application users can search for specific images using key words.