The Amazon.com Inc. cloud unit dominates the computer power market delivered through the Internet. But there is an area where it has been delayed: artificial intelligence tools that allow customers to badyze data, understand speech and recognize images without buying their own expensive machinery.
Amazon Web Services quickly added improvements to AI, hired experts in the field and enrolled clients such as software maker Intuit Inc. and insurer Liberty Mutual Group Inc.
Amazon is trying to catch up because it is likely that This market will boost growth in cloud computing, and right now Microsoft Corp. and Google are using it to get AWS customers out. It is forecast that sales of software for the creation of artificial intelligence applications will increase by 40 percent to 2021 to more than $ 8 billion, according to research firm IDC. The growth of those products in the cloud will be even greater, said IDC badyst David Schubmehl, as companies turn to Internet-based services to bademble and execute increasingly complex programs that use the latest advances in AI.
But for a company that boasts one of the most successful artificial intelligence devices, Amazon's Echo devices, artificial intelligence cloud services have been slow to arrive. Google and Microsoft have beaten AWS in the deployment of the first products and have natural advantages that come from its large research laboratories supplied with artificial intelligence experts and years of experience in the field. It is an unusual position for AWS, which has a 5 to 1 advantage in overall participation in the cloud market with respect to n. ° 2 of Microsoft, according to Gartner Inc.
Amazon responds that it has a great advantage, particularly in machine learning, where the algorithms automatically badyze and adapt to the data.
"When the world was still trying to learn how to build websites in 1995, we used machine learning to run recommendation engines," said Swami Sivasubramanian, vice president of AI at AWS, in reference to Amazon's early foray into Predicting what books customers want.
Since then, Amazon has used AI for its warehouse robots and its concept of a supermarket without a box called Amazon Go. There are thousands of people in the company working on machine learning for internal uses, Sivasubramanian said.
But in AI cloud services for other companies, the story has been different. Last year, AWS increased its game in this area, hiring the machine learning luminary Alex Smola and accusing it of expanding the staff and making these products more widely available and easier for AWS customers to use.
In recent months, the company hired Pietro Perona, a pioneer in the field of computer vision, as well as Stefano Soatto, who was one of Perona's students in the 1990s and is now an acquaintance expert in artificial vision. Pilar Manchon, who built an artificial intelligence company that Intel Corp. acquired, joined last year, as did Hbadan Sawaf, former head of AI at EBay Inc.
A year ago, Amazon launched several new intelligence services artificial. Lex leaves speech and text aside; Polly imitates speech so applications can read aloud; and Rekognition tells you what is in an image.
Before those offers appeared, Liberty Mutual was looking for rival products from companies such as Microsoft to create a chatbot that would allow employees to ask questions about, for example, benefits or what's on the cafeteria menu, said Gillian McCann, who supervised the project. Then AWS announced Lex, and Liberty Mutual changed that, a move that allowed the company to stay with its existing cloud provider.
" Since they've only been doing this for 11 months, they're doing pretty well very well," said Schubmehl of IDC. "AI is now a key component of Amazon's arsenal."
Amazon will launch more products this week in its Re: Invent conference in the cloud. A keynote speech on Wednesday is expected to showcase new AI capabilities and a renewed data storage service, called Ironman, that ingests and prepares data so that machine learning algorithms can be applied to information, according to the technology news website. The Information.
"I'm super happy with the amount of progress we've made," said Smola of AWS in an interview. "Am I happy where we are in relation to where we should be? No. But you never are."
In addition to selling new AI tools, AWS earns revenue when customers rent a large amount of processing or storage capacity to run the AI programs they build. Amazon's position there, and the wide range of hardware the company offers customers for these tasks, are not appreciated, said Matt McIlwain, general manager of Seattle-based venture capital firm Madrona Venture Group. AI "is an area where they have been commercialized," he said.
Financial and accounting software firm Intuit will rely on AWS to host its artificial intelligence applications and use the new tools for functions that include responding to customers "tax questions and automatic fraud detection," he said. Intuit technology director, Tayloe Stansbury.
Language learning application Duolingo uses Polly to talk with users in the foreign language they are trying to master. The City of Virginia Beach uses AWS to run its StormSense application that predicts coastal flooding, and the Washington County Sheriff's Office uses Rekognition to identify people of interest.
Technology has a way to go, Manchon said. "If you expect it to be almost like a human being, you may not get what you want," he said. But she predicts a dramatic improvement in the coming years.
That AWS was able to attract Smola, in the first place, means a major change in the way it operates. Four years earlier, he rejected a job at Amazon because the company did not allow him to publish his research. Now it publishes frequently and AWS contributes to open source projects of artificial intelligence.
One thing that has not changed is Amazon's focus on the customer rather than the kind of academic research that Microsoft and Microsoft are doing. Anyone who works on a new AI project on Amazon must first write a Frequently Asked Questions memorandum and a press release for the final product. That means that nothing is built that is not directly destined to satisfy the needs of the clients. The approach is attractive to some of the scientists that Amazon has recruited, such as Soatto and Smola, because it is different from what they are used to in the academy.