Microsoft advances several of its hosted artificial intelligence algorithms

Microsoft Cognitive Services is home to the company’s hosted artificial intelligence algorithms. Today, the company announced advances to several Cognitive Services tools including Microsoft Custom Vision Service, the Face API and Bing Entity Search .

Joseph Sirosh, who leads the Microsoft’s cloud AI efforts, defined Microsoft Cognitive Services in a company blog post announcing the enhancements, as “a collection of cloud-hosted APIs that let developers easily add AI capabilities for vision, speech, language, knowledge and search into applications, across devices and platforms such as iOS, Android and Windows.” These are distinct from other Azure AI services, which are designed for developers who are more hands-on, DIY types.

The idea is to put these kinds of advanced artificial intelligence tools within reach of data scientists, developers and any other interested parties without any of the normal heavy lifting required to build models and get results with the myriad of testing phases that are typically involved in these types of exercises.

For starters, the company is moving the Custom Vision Service from free preview to paid preview, which is the final step before becoming generally available. Sirosh writes that this service helps “developers to easily train a classifier with their own data, export the models and embed these custom classifiers directly in their applications, and run it offline in real time on iOS, Android and many other edge devices.”

Andy Hickl, who works in the Cognitive Services group as principal group program manager, says the tool is designed to help companies identify similar entities in an automated way such as not only recognizing that a particular picture is a dog, but that’s it’s a specific kind of dog or a dog that belongs to a particular person.

The Face API, which is generally available as of today, helps identify a specific person from a large group of people in an automated way. With today’s release the tool allows developers to create groups of up to a million people. Hickl says this is significant because up until now, many face recognition algorithms could only recognize a handful of faces, useful as far as it goes, but not truly scalable like this, he pointed out.

Finally, the Bing Entity Search algorithm enables developers to embed Bing search results in any application. So for example, you could retrieve search results within any tool narrowed down by any Bing entity such as image or website. This tool is generally available as of today.

Microsoft search results embedded in application. Photo: Microsoft