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Amazon Brings Trio Of Alexa-Inspired AI Services To AWS

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Amazon follows rivals Google and Microsoft and gives developers access to AI services

Amazon revealed at its AWS re:Invent conference in Seattle that it is now offering developers three  Artificial Intelligence (AI) services.

The new Amazon AI services utilise the same technology that powers Amazon Alexa (named after the ancient library of Alexandria). Alexa is Amazon’s voice control system that controls Amazon’s popular voice controlled Echo speaker.

The development comes after Amazon’s rivals such as Microsoft and Google already incorporate AI technology into their offerings.

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The trio of new Amazon AI services are targeted around three core aspects, namely voice-enabled AI, image recognition and text-to-speech services.

Amazon says that developers can use these AI services to build apps that can understand natural language, turn text into lifelike speech, have conversations using voice or text, analyse images, and recognize faces, objects, and scenes.

The first AI service is Amazon Lex, which enables a developer to build conversational user experiences for web, mobile, and connected device apps. The second AI service is Amazon Polly, which transforms text into lifelike speech, enabling apps to talk with 47 lifelike voices in 24 languages.

And thirdly there is Amazon Rekognition, which allows image analysis to be built into applications, using image and face recognition.

“Amazon AI services all provide high-quality, high-accuracy AI capabilities that are scalable and cost-effective,” said the firm.

“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. 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.”

Amazon points out that until now, only a small number of developers have been able to build and deploy apps with AI capabilities because AI traditionally requires access to huge quantities of data and specialised expertise in machine learning and neural networks.

But Amazon feels that its AI Services “eliminates all of this heavy lifting, making AI broadly accessible to all app developers by offering Amazon’s powerful and proven deep learning algorithms and technologies as fully managed services that any developer can access through an API call or a few clicks in 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, at AWS.

“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 centres through robotics and computer vision technologies, and to give customers our AI-powered virtual assistant, Alexa,” Gulabani added. “Now, we are making the technology underlying these innovations available to any developer in the form of three fully managed Amazon AI services that are easy to use, powerful, and cost effective.”

Late Comer?

In the Autumn a number of tech firms including Amazon, Facebook, Google (DeepMind), IBM and Microsoft come together to form an Artificial Intelligence organisation to explore the ethics and applications of technology that could transform the entire industry.

But some may feel that Amazon is a little late to the party, as AI is being used by rival tech firms to improve applications, such as Google Translate, as well as power personal assistants like Siri and Cortana.

Microsoft for example recently detailed plans to introduce AI into Office 365. And earlier this year Google began testing a custom chip designed for artificial intelligence and machine learning.

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