8 new Microsoft Azure AI updates to boost productivity

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Today Microsoft Azure announced a variety of enhancements across its AI services at Ignite 2022. The company says the updates will help people “work smarter, not harder by bringing more intelligence, insights and value to the hands of customers.”

The product updates include new innovations in Azure Applied AI Services to help customers automate mundane tasks and serve end-users in multiple languages worldwide; updates to Azure Cognitive Services to “enrich and simplify” the creation of AI apps with pre-built models and text-to-image generation; and new capabilities in Azure Machine Learning that boost the productivity of developers and data scientists of all skill levels, and help further responsible AI deployment.

More than 85% of Fortune 100 companies have used Azure AI in the past 12 months, spanning industries and use cases. But John Montgomery, corporate vice president at Azure AI, told VentureBeat that the context for the updates is the current economic situation, which is forcing companies to grapple with both doing more with less as well as to figure out ways to help workers be more productive and satisfied.

“There is a significant pressure,” he said. “Most companies I talk with are looking at what they have to do with their people and had hiring ramps that are being changed or reduced.”

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That has led, he explained, to a “tremendous acceleration” of AI adoption in enterprises, helped by technologies that focus on speed and scale. “The scale we see with customers is pretty significant, but one change we’re seeing in the last year is time to market and execution,” he said. “It’s been a big hindrance for adopting AI, but we’re seeing customers being able to adopt AI more quickly.”

These are highlights of eight new Microsoft Azure AI updates:

Prebuilt AI model in Microsoft Azure’s Form Recognizer

Azure Form Recognizer now offers a prebuilt AI model that automatically extracts content unique to contracts such as parties and payment terms and has expanded language support to 275 languages worldwide, all in preview. 

For example, H&R Block, which processes around 12 million tax returns a year, is using AI and automation to help make tax filing easier. They’re using the prebuilt W2 model in Azure Form Recognizer (an Azure Applied AI Service), which automatically extracts information from W2s for customers with a high degree of accuracy.

Azure OpenAI service offers DALL-E 2

DALL-E 2 is coming to Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI Service by invitation, allowing select Azure AI customers to generate custom images using text or images.

Adding DALL-E 2 to Azure OpenAI Service will allow customers to generate creative content backed by Azure’s cloud AI infrastructure, enterprise-grade security and compliance features.

Expanded summarization and language support

Azure Cognitive Service for Language has expanded summarization and language support so customers can more easily extract and act on insights from business documents and conversations.

Beiersdorf, a Germany-based global market leader for skin care products (including brands like Nivea, Coppertone and Eucerin), wanted to help their R&D team locate, organize, and extract data from documents to support their research across dozens of different interfaces.

The company used Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services to develop an intelligent digital library and now use the Cognitive Service for Language to understand and summarize documents to help researchers find what they need faster. Azure Cognitive Search helps categorize their terabytes of data and makes it easily searchable.

New features in speech-to-text and text-to-speech

Azure Speech Service now offers new features in speech-to-text and text-to-speech services to help customers deliver richer, more accessible and high-quality voice-enabled apps.

Microsoft Teams now includes real-time transcriptions, closed captioning, and translation. This includes Live Translations for meeting captions with Azure AI-powered translations for 40 spoken languages.

Azure Computer Vision updates

Microsoft Azure Computer Vision now features two updates in preview. Image Analysis extracts visual features from images to improve digital asset management and customer accessibility. The product includes object detection, people detection, and smart cropping.

Spatial Analysis ingests streaming video from cameras, extracts insights, and generates events to be used by other systems including buildings and automobiles. These AI capabilities are available on the edge and in the cloud and is integrated with smart cameras that stream the video to Azure for AI processing.

Microsoft Azure ML updates

Automated code generation is now available in preview for all Automated ML tasks, helping customers automatically generate training code during model development so they can get quality models into production faster.

Responsible AI Dashboard will soon be generally available to help customers more easily understand, protect and control AI models.

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