Thanks to the new wave of machine learning technology, there has been a lot of hype surrounding its transformative potential. Admittedly, the possibilities of its practical applications are virtually endless. But oftentimes, the challenge lies in the implementation process.
With this in mind, Microsoft Office is seeking to upend the status quo. It has combined machine learning and cognitive computing services on Azure with the Office 365 package. Through the resultant product, it is uncovering new ways for organizations to make use of the information at their disposal.
But first things first, what exactly is cognitive computing?
What is Cognitive Computing?
Cognitive computing is a term commonly used to describe technology that is based on AI. In the most fundamental terms, this is the technology that seeks to imitate the function of the human brain. Based on this, it enhances human decision-making through the use of technology based on cognitive processes.
Notably though, the concept of cognitive computing has become the subject of marketing hype. It is prominently known as part of present-day marketing jargon. But fortunately, behind the hype, there are numerous real applications for the nascent technology.
Current cognitive services incorporate multiple technologies besides machine learning. These include speech and visual recognition, language processing, visual recognition and many more.
The Merger between Microsoft Cognitive Services and Office 365
Microsoft Cognitive Services seek to add intelligence to everyday applications enhancing their practical value and functionality. Its long-term objective is to incorporate personalization to data processing as well as to streamline workflows with the mere use of intelligent systems.
One of the ways it is doing so is through the introduction of cognitive services in Office 365. This comes as part of its Machine Learning as a Service (MLaaS) program which seeks to avail the technology to the masses.
Benefits of Cognitive Services on Office 365
Most developers highly esteem the potential of cognitive computing in view of the increasing value of cognitive services in apps. However, the difficulty of implementing the technology and its associated costs pose a major challenge for organizations hoping to integrate it into their applications.
Enter Microsoft Cognitive Services. The comprehensive suite offers a medium using which developers can access the required cognitive functions and circumvent the above obstacles. By incorporating the services into MS Office 365, Microsoft has further lowered the entry barrier.
Using these cognitive services, it is possible to add intelligence and value to everyday applications on Office 365. These enhancements apply in five major areas:
Text Recognition in Video – With this capability, it is possible to make video and audio files more valuable. On one hand, it can be indispensable to the hearing impaired, offering closed captions capabilities. On the other, it can incorporate intelligent search, making it easy to jump to a specific speaker or part instead of sitting through an audio or video. For some, it is, in fact, an invaluable tool when skimming over transcripts rather than watching an entire video and wasting time.
Facial Recognition – Detecting faces in images and videos is now a lot easier thanks to this feature. And it does not stop at that. It also detects facial attributes that machine learning algorithms can analyze for sentiment and make predictions.
Content Moderation – The content moderator API checks images, text and video for potentially offensive, undesirable or otherwise risky material. When it finds such content, it applies relevant flags. From this point, an app can react to the content to comply with regulatory requirements or meet the needs of the target audience. A popular application is on social media platforms where a business may need to moderate user-generated content.
Language Translation – For apps requiring multi-language support, this API makes work easier. You can integrate it into a website for localization purposes, an e-commerce platform, messaging apps and customer support. It supports 60+ languages and automatically detects language letting you serve content in the right language.
Speech to Text – Using this feature, you can transform audio files to text and vice versa. You can even transmit the content directly from OneDrive or SharePoint to Microsoft Stream, which is sort of like YouTube for corporates.
Speaker Recognition – Whether there is a need for identification of individual speakers or authentication and verification, this API automates the process. It can help in ascertaining a speaker’s claim to a certain identity or authorize entry by voice just as you would using a fingerprint.
Natural Language Processing – Sentiment analysis has become a key part of business especially in the e-commerce sector. It calls for sentiment detection based on text as the opportunities for in-person interactions are limited. Machine learning algorithms on this API use classification to assign sentiment scores and inform decision-making. Other aspects of language processing include extraction of key phrases, language identification and recognition of named entities for disambiguation.
Question and Answer Maker for Bot Services – The Knowledge Exploration Service (KES) API has the role of interpreting queries and providing suggestions for auto-completion. It analyzes structured queries and gives a response concerning matching objects. Moreover, it offers interactive experiences and attributes visualization. Thus, the API can come in handy for adding an interactive chat feature which can handle conversations until it’s time to hand over to a human representative.
Custom Decision Service – Using context-based data, this API automates decision-making and becomes sharper as it gains more and more experience. Its machine learning algorithms make use of reinforcement learning for content personalization. Then it initiates a response based on emerging trends derived from the things you show an interest in. By creating patterns based on this data, it learns from you and about you and presents personalized content such as product recommendations.
Knowledge Extraction – Cognitive search seeks to extract knowledge from existing datasets for content understanding. It organizes the knowledge in search indexes opening up new possibilities for data exploration. Data in the real world is usually messy and keeps changing. As such, you may have tons of valuable data but in a form that is not usable. Using the automated solution to retrieve useful information is invaluable in today’s data-centric business model.
Population Search Engine Auto-suggestions – As soon as a user begins typing, the algorithm responsible for auto-suggestions tries to pinpoint what they are most likely using it for. For accuracy, it relies on a wealth of data and contextual information available at hand.
Bringing Value and Intelligence to the Masses
With this new suite of products accessible to Office 365 users, Microsoft is taking the lead in providing value-adding services. These machine learning-based, cognitive services have created a new arena for extracting business value and enjoying a competitive advantage.
Thanks to the integration of MLaaS into the Office suite, developers no longer have to do the heavy lifting. Businesses also benefit since they do not have to invest a fortune into the implementation of AI and machine learning.
The development thus holds promise of creating a dramatic transformation in the way businesses make use of the data at their disposal. And the best part is that leveraging the benefits does not require a huge investment of time or finances. It is, therefore, within reach and no longer a preserve of the high and mighty.
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