May

Microsoft AI products

                                                 

Microsoft product strategy has always been and still remains that of ‘zero alternative’. Their ultimate policy is for their customers to have no choice but to embrace only Microsoft products. Consequently they created and are offering products and solutions in (almost) every segment of IT enterprise and consumer market, including, but certainly not limited to, their own data base, their own cloud services, operating system, office tools, programming language, and many more.

Not only do Microsoft offer wide variety of products, they tie them up together in a unified ecosystem that makes it easy for components to connect and interact. At the same time, this ecosystem is hostile to non-Microsoft products.

Microsoft strategy for the burgeoning, fast growing AI segment is similar:

Create products to address all parts of the AI market, add them to the ecosystem to ensure easy compatibility from within and difficulty of use from outside.

Currently the products on offer are:

- Microsoft AI engine, called LUIS. It is supposed to compete with other major industrial AI systems such as IBM Watson, and has similar training methodology. It offers webhook interfacing via endpoints.  

- Microsoft chatbot building platform, called, surprisingly, Microsoft Bot Platform. It addresses the popular demand for easy chatbot design and provides seamless connectivity with main user interfaces, such as web interface, SMS, mobile, and messaging platforms.

- In addition Microsoft offers their own messaging platform in Skype.

The main advantage of  using Microsoft AI products is the built-in connectivity with user interfaces.

The main disadvantage is in their ‘zero alternative’ policy - once you’ve chosen a Microsoft product you are likely will be forced to choose only Microsoft products for the duration of your project.

 

Interested in reading more? Check out our other blogs:

What Is AI Engine and Do I Need It?

Chatbots and assistant programs designed to support conversations with human users rely on natural language processing (NLP). This is a field of scientific research that aims at making computers understand the meaning of sentences in natural language. The algorithms developed by NLP researchers helped power first generation of virtual assistants such as Siri or Cortana. Now the same algorithms are made available to the developer community to help companies build their own specialized virtual assistants. Industry products that offer NLP capabilities based on these algorithms are often called AI engines.

The most powerful and advanced AI engines currently available on the market are (in no particular order): IBM Watson, Google DialogFlow, Microsoft LUIS, Amazon Lex.

All these engines use intents and entities as primary pnguistic identifies to convey the meaning of incoming sentences. All of them offer conversation flow capability. In other words, intents and entities help to understand what the incoming sentence is about. Once the incoming sentence is correctly identified you can use the engine to provide a reply. You can repeat these two steps a large number of times, thus creating a conversation, or dialog.

In terms of language processing ability and simplicity of user experience IBM Watson and Google DialogFlow are currently above the pack. Microsoft LUIS is okay too; still, keeping in mind that Microsoft are aggressively territorial and like when users stay within their ecosystem, it is most efficient to use LUIS together with other Microsoft products such as MS Bot Framework.

Using AI engine conversation flow to create dialogs makes building conversations a simple, almost intuitive, task, with no coding involved. On the flip side, using AI engine conversation flow limits your natural tendency to make conversations natural. The alternative, delegating the conversation flow to the business layer of your chatbot, adds richness and flexibility to your dialog but makes the process more comppcated as it now requires coding. Cannot sell a cow and drink the milk at the same time, can you?

Amazon Lex lacks the semantic sophistication of their competitors. One can say (somewhat metaphorically)  that IBM Watson was created by linguists and computer scientists while Amazon Lex was created by sales people. As a product it is well packaged and initially looks pleasing on the eye, but once you start digging deeper you notice the limitations. Also, Amazon traditionally excelled in voice recognition component (Amazon Alexa) and not necessarily in actual language processing.

The space of conversational AI is fluid and changes happen rapidly. The existing products are evolving continuously and a new generation of AI engines is in the process of being developed.

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AI: Our Only Weapon Against Climate Change?



Artificial Intelligence, more commonly referred to as simply AI, has been, since it’s early days, changing our lives in many ways. AI has become one of the greatest inventions of the human mind. When thinking of AI, we do not normally associate AI as being involved in helping farmers grow more crops to feed the exponentially growing population, or helping develop cancer treatment, or even keeping kids safe from trafficking and abuse by finding improper online activities. Instead we think of computers to phones, to self-driving cars and robots. However AI doesn’t just power the gadgets that we have grown so accustomed to in our daily lives, but it is increasingly being used to help solve impending social challenges.

One of these impending social issues is the quite literally hot topic – global warming. The challenges of global warming are growing by the day, as its impacts are becoming more severe and harder to manage. Melting ice caps, severe sever weather changes, extinction of species, are just a few of the consequences of the manmade climate change that is plaguing our world today. Despite widespread acceptance and awareness, the rate at which the world is embracing positive change is unfortunately not fast enough.

Fortunately there are many large companies that are setting an example by using AI to develop new ways in which to battle global warming. In fact, it seems as though AI is the only solution we have. It is helping us not only track and our present data, but also analyze our past data so that we can make informed decisions about the future. One such example is the use of AI to collect large amounts of data on land, animals, weather, ecosystems, etc… and organize it, so that scientists and governments can then determine what needs to be done, and the most cost effective ways to engage conservation methods.

We are quite surely seeing more and more AI initiatives being undertaken to help create a more eco-friendly world.

In order to reduce human influence on nature, increasing levels of human interference with natural processes are required”  (Harvard University)

Whatever the downfalls of AI may be, its ability to help us against destroying our planet is perhaps its most important trait – because as hard as it may be to accept, our planet is dying and AI can help us prevent that. 

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