Amazon just gave AI to any startup that wants it

KITT from TV series Knightrider. (Image: Getty)

Machine learning is technology that is fast coming into the mainstream. Now Amazon has opened up access to sophisticated artificial intelligence capabilities, so all an entrepreneur has to have is a killer business idea.

The chief executive of Amazon Web Services, Andy Jassy, today announced at the company’s annual re:Invent conference in Las Vegas that new image recognition, text-to-speech and natural language understanding services are now available on-demand.

The idea is that these services are now ready to use on-demand so that startups (and established companies) can concentrate on their business ideas rather than having to worry about coding artificial intelligence.

“It’s fully managed for you so that you don’t have to do any of the heavy lifting,” Jassy said in front of a crowd of 10,000 Amazon devotees.

Amazon Rekognition will take any picture and detect objects (such as people, cars and trees), scenes (daytime, outside or inside) and faces (smiling, glasses). Budding startups can upload millions of pictures at a time or one-by-one, depending on their needs.

“This is really useful for applications in the security space. You can imagine unlocking your desktop with facial recognition,” said Jassy, adding that machine learning technology means the image recognition becomes more accurate as more companies use this service.

Amazon Polly is a deep learning text-to-speech service that can take strings of text and convert them into a sensible voice. For example, the text “It’s 5C in Sydney, the capital of NSW” would be converted to “It’s 5 degrees Celsius in Sydney, the capital of New South Wales” as a voiced sentence.

Polly has 47 different voices with 27 languages available on the service.

That tool, in combination with the third new AI service Amazon Lex, can be a powerful combination for startups that have the world-busting idea but don’t have the in-house technical chops to pull it off.

Lex, which is a shortened form of Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa, is a natural language understanding (NLU) engine. The service allows the computer to have “natural, conversational” interactions with a human.

“This will allow you to build all kinds of conversational applications,” Jassy said on stage. “It’s really interesting what you can do with the service.”

Similar to the other two services, Lex’s abilities improve with every interaction. The tool also connects to other popular platforms such as Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Quickbooks and Facebook Messenger.

At the event, AWS product strategy general manager Dr Matt Wood gave a demonstration how the three tools could work together, by booking a flight from Las Vegas to London using just his voice to talk to the computer.

The journalist travelled to AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas as a guest of Amazon.

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