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New Amazon AI Services To Help Devs Build Smarter Apps

Amazon Web Services (AWS) unveiled three new offerings on Wednesday aimed at enabling developers to build apps that leverage artificial intelligence (AI).

CEO Andy Jassy took the wraps off the Amazon Rekognition, Amazon Polly and Amazon Lex during Wednesday's keynote of the re:Invent conference, taking place this week in Las Vegas. Together with the previously released Amazon Machine Learning service, the products comprise the Amazon AI product group.

Now generally available, Amazon Rekognition is a sophisticated image-recognition service that can identify objects, faces and scenes using labels (e.g., "car," "woman," "steering wheel"). For faces, it can also detect certain attributes, including gender, expression and distinguishing characteristics. It has the capability to face-match, with Jassy noted is a useful option for security app developers.

Amazon Polly, also generally available, is essentially a text-to-speech "parroting" service. Users input a line of text into Polly, and the service replies with an .MP3 recording of the text. Polly is designed to accurately interpret real-like dialogue; it can distinguish between homographs and understand abbreviations, for instance. It can also "speak" in 47 voices and 24 languages.

Of the three new AI services, Amazon Lex is the only one that's still in preview. Jassy said Lex is the technology underpinning AWS' Alexa and Echo services, and described it as a way for developers to build natural language and conversational capabilities into their apps.

"You can use Amazon Lex to build chatbots and other types of web [and] mobile applications that support engaging, lifelike interactions. Your bots can provide information, power your application, streamline work activities, or provide a control mechanism for robots, drones, and toys," explained AWS evangelist Jeff Barr in a blog post Wednesday to coincide with the re:Invent announcement.

"You start out by designing your conversation in the Lex Console, providing Lex with some sample phrases that are used to build a natural language model. Then you publish your Amazon Lex bot and let it process text or voice conversations with your users."

"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. AWS is home to some of the most innovative and creative AI applications in use today," said Raju Gulabani, AWS' vice president of Databases, Analytics and AI, in a prepared statement. "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 centers through robotics and computer vision technologies, and to give customers our AI-powered virtual assistant, Alexa. 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."

More from re:Invent 2016

About the Author

Gladys Rama is the senior site producer for Redmondmag.com, RCPmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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