AWS re:Invent 2016

Why Amazon’s new machine learning tools are so important

Amazon wants to bring machine learning to developers

The fact that Amazon Web Services announced three new machine learning services this week shouldn’t come as a surprise. Machine learning, artificial intelligence and cognitive computing are hot buzzwords for cloud vendors and the world was waiting to see how AWS would address it at its re:Invent conference in Las Vegas.

What may be surprising is how Amazon is positioning these new machine learning tools.

+MORE AT NETOWRK WORLD: A peek inside Amazon’s cloud – from global scale to custom silicon | Cool tech at AWS re:Invent +

Until recently, machine learning was considered somewhat of a moon-shot technology. ML experts have spent their careers mastering the art of coding algorithms and training computers to learn. Cloud vendors from Google to Microsoft and IBM have all developed machine learning platforms on their clouds to attract these workloads.

Amazon’s announcement of these three products – and two of them in particular with Polly and Rekognition - are aimed specifically at application developers though, not PhDs.

Amazon Polly is a tool that allows developers to input text into it and the app will provide an audio stream of the words. Developers can input text manually or through an API. There are 47 voices in 24 languages, making it fairly easy to add voice dictation to a plethora of apps.

Image Rekognition is a simple platform for finding trends in images uploaded to Amazon’s cloud. Images that are in Amazon’s Simple Storage Service can be queried by the Rekognition platform, which in turn will analyze the images and categorize traits such as vehicles, pets or furniture. It can also analyze faces so it can identify photos that have certain people in them.

The functionality of these applications is fairly limited. They’re not meant for machine learning experts who want to write their own artificial intelligence applications. But what they are meant for are developers who are familiar with the AWS platform who want to add text-to-speech and image recognition functionality to their apps.

For all the Machine Learning PhDs, Amazon has other tools, most notably the Amazon Machine Learning platform, that is geared for more programmatic Machine Learning functions. By announcing these new capabilities this week Amazon is rounding out its ML capabilities and offering customers a wider range of ML options for folks who are just getting started with this exciting technology.

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