Microsoft Cognitive Services – Democratization of AI

microsoft cognitive services

Artificial Intelligence (AI) holds tons of potential for app development. But oftentimes, harnessing this potential requires developers to reinvent the wheel for every new app. This poses a wide range of challenges particularly for developers with limited expertise in machine learning.

With that in mind, Microsoft has sought to democratize AI through the Microsoft Cognitive Services suite of apps.

What is Microsoft Cognitive Services?

Microsoft Cognitive Services (MCS) is a collection of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and AI algorithms. It consists of 25 tools that developers can use to add various features to apps, websites and AI agents.

The idea behind Cognitive Services is to equip businesses that lack the requisite AI expertise, budget and infrastructure to access AI tools. Users have the opportunity to make their pick from a library of algorithms accessible on Microsoft’s public cloud computing platform, Azure.

These include sentiment detection, speech and vision recognition, language understanding and emotion among other features. For any enterprise using the services, it is now possible to access a wide range of capabilities with numerous benefits.

Benefits of Democratization of AI Using Microsoft Cognitive Services

In essence, this suite of tools makes it possible for apps to hear, see, understand and communicate user needs thanks to AI. Here are some of the possibilities that the democratization of AI has consequently unraveled for a wide array of users:

  • Informed Decision-Making – the Knowledge API

At times, a business may want to know what the world is saying about a given topic. Retrieving the relevant information about different topics is not always easy. This is where the knowledge API comes in.

Depending on the type of information you seek, Microsoft Cognitive Services offers a variety of tools for different knowledge searches. If you are interested in academic knowledge, for instance, there is an Academic Knowledge API. Using natural language semantics and its extensive index, it tracks down the most relevant information.

Using the Microsoft Cognitive Services suite of apps, developers can also create apps that incorporate intelligent recommendations to drive efficient decision-making. In this case, the model bases recommendations on user behavior. It then suggests catalog products that a user might be interested in.

  • Speech Recognition and Conversion

Enterprise users and developers can incorporate translation, speech-to-text and text-to-speech conversion into sites and apps. They can also enable speaker recognition and verification. Taking cues from the way the human brain works, the system generates life-like discourse and intelligible text.

  • Natural Language Processing

Language processing is another handy benefit that the system provides for enterprises. The feature comes in handy in the improvement of customer experience. For instance, it facilitates efficient social media monitoring and sentiment analysis.

AI models can scour the web for conversations and comments about a brand that may be unfavorable or favorable and use this to inform campaigns and responses. It is also easier to know what customers want based on sentiment.

  • Vision Recognition

With vision recognition, it is easier to extract data from videos, pictures and digital content. Computers cannot ordinarily read handwritten texts or drawings. But thanks to AI, computer vision can convert these into formats usable by computers and readable by users.

Using this feature, AI models can analyze emotions on a human face or a still photograph and draw data from it. They can also predict gender and age, both of which are useful to enterprises.

The same feature automates text moderation, analyzing videos and images for inappropriate content and profanity. It can also analyze and process videos within an app, as well as get actionable insight from images.

  • Intelligent Search

Developers can also add Bing Search APIs to apps so as to leverage the ability to comb through billions of videos, images, news and webpages with a single API call. The application of machine learning to web searches offers higher efficiency as well as performance.

A great example of this is Bing Autosuggest which offers intelligent suggestions depending on the query at hand. It comes in pretty handy when a user needs more than a simple word match. For instance, when one needs an autocomplete search box, the use of AI ensures a context-aware response.

Practical Uses of Microsoft Cognitive Services in Enterprises

  • Enhancing Security

For many industries, it is becoming the norm to use visual identity verification as an additional security layer. Using the Face API, companies are basically using facial recognition and smart authentication to facilitate this.

Generally speaking, face recognition works by comparing two faces to determine if they belong to one person. In most cases, companies store images of employees in the cloud. For reference purposes, they use ID strings. Each face essentially has a unique ID associated with a unique name string and optional user data.

For identity verification, an AI model will take the Face ID from the individual and compare it to the images in its database. By doing so, it can verify identity and authorize access.

  • Using Untagged Footage

In content creation, one of the most challenging aspects is finding the right images to convey a message. The situation is compounded when what you have at your disposal is untagged footage.

But with Microsoft Cognitive Services, AI makes it easy to retrieve the exact desired moment from millions of images using a combination of APIs.

  • Customer Service Chatbots

One of the top practical uses of the technology has to do with customer engagement via automated chat. It is now easier than ever to build a bot that addresses your customers’ questions and concerns while embodying your brand. Whenever necessary, it can also escalate to a human operator.

Some of the typical questions that such a bot can answer concern stock availability and product options. By interacting with customers in a conversational manner, it offers a cohesive customer journey and personalized service. With time, chatbots learn from their interaction with humans to respond intelligently and emotionally for satisfactory user experience.

  • Speech Customization

Custom Speech Service is a tool that seeks to overcome barriers in speech recognition such as background noise, vocabulary and speech style. It allows developers to customize a language model by tailoring it to users’ style of speaking and vocabulary.

It can also customize the speech recognizer’s acoustic model to operate at optimal levels in a given environment and match an app’s user population. Thus, building custom voice interactions between systems and users becomes much easier thanks to automation.

  • Remote Hiring

Another aspect of transformation that Microsoft Cognitive Services makes possible is recruitment and hiring. Some companies are already making use of the technology for automated video interviewing. To access the feature, candidates can download the relevant app on any smartphone. And it offers full functionality even where there is limited internet connectivity.

Amplifying Human Ability through AI Democratization

While many around the world think of AI as a replacement or competitor to human ability, Microsoft focuses on amplifying these abilities instead. There are areas in which machine perception operates at par or better than human perception. But there are areas that require the human touch, calling for balance between the two worlds.

By virtue of Microsoft Cognitive Services, AI is no longer the reserve of a handful of enterprises. Rather, it is now accessible to small, medium and large businesses in practically every sector. Developers have a wide range of powerful tools which can help them enhance productivity and build models and apps much faster than before.

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Janica San Juan

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