Microsoft makes three more cognitive services generally available

Microsoft is rolling out more of its Cognitive Services programming interfaces, which provide developers with a way to add face recognition, computer vision and more to their apps and services.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft is making three more of its Cognitive Services interfaces generally available as of today, April 19.


The three: The Face API, Computer Vision API and Content Moderator. The new Cognitive Services are available in the Azure Portal. Pricing for Microsoft's Cognitive Services is available here.

Microsoft is working on about two dozen Cognitive Services application programming interfaces (APIs), which are meant to provide developers with ways to add features like speech recognition, language understanding, sentiment detection and more to their applications.

Cognitive Services and bots are both part of Microsoft's overall artificial intelligence and more specific "conversation as a platform" strategies. Microsoft's Cognitive Services APIs are meant to work well with the Microsoft Bot Framework and be useful in bot scenarios. (They also can be used independently of bot scenarios.) Like Microsoft's Cognitive Services, bots can be speech, language, and vision-based.

Earlier this year, Microsoft officials said more than 424,000 developers in 60 countries have tried out various Microsoft Cognitive Services to date.

The now-generally-available Face API helps to detect and compare human faces, organize faces into groups according to visual similarity, and identify previously tagged people in images, according to Microsoft.

The Computer Vision API provides developers with tools to understand the contents of any image. "It creates tags that identify objects, beings like celebrities, or actions in an image, and crafts coherent sentences to describe it," explains Microsoft in its blog post today. The Computer Vision API also can detect landmarks and handwriting in images. (The Handwriting detection piece remains in preview.)

Content Moderator allows users to quarantine and review images, text, and video data before publishing that information. (Video moderation is available in preview as part of Azure Media Services.)

Microsoft made a public preview of its Custom Speech Service API available in February. At that time, officials said Content Moderator and the Bing Speech API -- which converts audio to text and text back to speech -- would both be generally available in March.

Microsoft's Cognitive Services availability announcement today is being made during its Data Amp webcast that is covering news around machine learning, databases and analytics.

During today's Data Amp event, Microsoft also announced it is making the second Community Technology Preview of the next version of SQL Server available. That version of SQL Server, which is expected to be released around June or July this year, is officially known, as of today, as SQL Server 2017. SQL Server 2017 will be available for Windows Server, Linux and Docker Containers, as Microsoft officials have said previously.

For more news from Data Amp, check out my ZDNet colleague Andrew Brust's post here.

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