Microsoft is today announcing a public preview for Azure AI Studio at Ignite 2023. Microsoft describes Azure AI Studio as an end-to-end platform that allows developers to build, explore, test, and deploy AI applications at scale.
I prefer thinking about Azure AI Studio as a toolkit for building enterprise-level AI applications and solutions. Like a real-world toolkit, Azure AI Studio helps developers build pretty much whatever they want except, in this case, using AI and software solutions instead of wood, fasteners, and glue.
Like a woodworker's workshop has different categories of tools for accomplishing different categories of tasks (hammers for bashing things, screwdrivers for tightening things, saws for cutting things, etc.), so does Azure AI Studio.
Power tools included
Data analysis tools: If you want to make sense of giant data sets, find patterns, or gain insights, these tools can help.
Predictive modeling tools: By feeding in historical data, these tools help forecast future customer demand, identify market trends, or predict needs like future maintenance requirements.
Natural language processing tools: If you want your solution to have the ability to understand natural language, Azure AI Studio natural language tools will prove invaluable.
Computer vision tools: Using these tools, your solutions can interpret the contents of still images and some video. This kind of technology is particularly valuable on the production line, but can be used for many other applications as well.
Recommendation engines: If you're into providing upsell or cross-sell opportunities to customers of your larger product lines, recommendation engines can process purchaser preferences and behavior, and relate that to products on offer.
Custom model building tools: If your business needs to do intelligent processing based on confidential information, unique domain expertise, unique trade secret information, or any other body of knowledge that may not be in an existing large language model, Azure AI Studio will help you to build your own.
In addition to the specific power tools, Azure AI Studio includes automation tools that use AI to automate and operate workflows and repetitive tasks. An entire suite of monitoring and reporting tools is also available to help you keep track of all of these wonderful toys and how they perform.
What you can build with Azure AI Studio
Here are some examples that Microsoft thinks will provide value to its enterprise customers.
Custom copilots: As we've been covering, Microsoft has introduced a wide range of copilots which are essentially AI-powered assistants that work with users to help with a variety of different tasks. Azure AI Studio gives developers the opportunity to build their own intelligent copilots that work with their specific projects and help solve their unique-to-their-own-business needs.
Call center AI helpers: These allow Microsoft customers to build custom virtual agents and chatbots that respond to customers, handle inquiries, provide more helpful value during off hours, and increase responsiveness. The addition of natural language processing and speech recognition capabilities will make these much more powerful for customer use.
Custom applications: One of the key benefits of Azure AI Studio is that it allows developers to build custom applications, ranging from automated repetitive tasks to generating content specific to given subject areas to chomping through very large data sets. Whether your business is in healthcare, finance, scientific analysis, publishing, or even education or entertainment, Microsoft intends Azure AI Studio to augment your offerings.
Multimodal experiences: One of the capabilities of Azure AI Studio that takes this all up a notch is that any of these solutions can be multimodal. This is driven by multimodal models like GPT-4 Turbo with Vision, which allows both text and image processing to be combined to result in custom applications. In other words, the age of letting your computer write your PowerPoint is upon us!
Speech analytics: Fictional radio therapist Fraser Crane used to answer his call-in listeners with the phrase, "I am listening." Now, so is Azure AI Studio. Microsoft customers can build solutions that recognize spoken language and audio data. Systems can analyze customer calls, interviews, and other voice recordings to perform sentiment analysis and voice recognition, which supports customer service, market research, healthcare, and other applications.
Businesses developing custom AI solutions have had a bit of a learning curve when it comes to applying prompt engineering (which involves the very careful design of input queries), vector search engines (which can find relevant, but unobvious data stored in vast data sets), and retrieval augmented generation (for generating coherent and truly context-appropriate responses) to their applications.
What Azure AI Studio does is raise the level of AI development from using technologies to using a platform of related, integrated, and accessible tools.
The benefits to businesses of having better access to the building blocks of AI are tremendous: fully customized solutions, unique competitive advantages, domain expertise, data privacy and security, performance optimized to the application, the ability to manage real-world data, scalability at the pace of the business, providing enhanced customer experiences, aligning with business goals, the ability to adapt based on changing business conditions, potential mitigation of bias, and ownership of intellectual property.
It will be interesting to see what companies create during the public preview, and once Azure AI Studio is fully released.