This post is authored by Joseph Sirosh, Corporate Vice President of the Data Group at Microsoft. A few months ago, I was trying to find a clever way to illustrate the power of machine learning to software developers at Microsoft's //BUILD conference. So, using the face analysis API we had recently published on the Cortana Analytics Gallery, we built the web site How-Old.net When we showed it off at //BUILD, the application went viral, and over 85 million users submitted over 500 million images to test it, and to mock and try to fool the application. It became a social media sensation.
For any cloud to be taken seriously, it has to meet an ever rising bar of features. Machine learning seems to be on that list, as all the major cloud providers now feature it. But how they go about doing it is another story. Aside from the "curated API vs. open-ended algorithm marketplace" models, there are the "everything and then some vs. just enough" variants. Here's how the four big cloud providers -- IBM, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon -- stack up next to each other in machine learning.
Microsoft is getting into the "fun camera app" game with a new iOS application called Sprinkles, which has now earned a featured spot in the "New apps we love" section of the App Store. The gist with Sprinkles, clearly aimed at a teen audience, is to offer a variety of traditional photo decorating tools like stickers, emoji and captions, but leverages Microsoft's machine learning and A.I. capabilities to do things like detect faces, determine the photo subject's age and emotion, figure out your celebrity look-a-like, suggest captions, and more. These tools have been put to use before in other consumer-facing web projects from Microsoft, like CelebsLike.me, which shows your celebrity doppelgängers, for example, or How-Old.net, a site from Microsoft's machine-learning team that tries to guess your age. With Sprinkles, these sorts of tools are integrated into a new photo-editing experience instead, where Microsoft hopes to cater to the same crowd that's obsessed with Snapchat's flower crowns and puppy faces. The new app leverages facial recognition techniques to properly overlays decorations like hats or mustaches, as well as its guesses about the subject's age and celeb look-a-likes.
Many technology commentators got all excited a few months ago when Microsoft launched how-old.net, a website where users could upload a photo and the site would guess the age of the person in the picture. The service was a great way to showcase the opportunity that applying artificial intelligence to a problem set introduces. Insilico hopes to deliver a similar sort of an offering, but with a far more important purpose. Insilico Medicine is an organization focused on aging research. Headquartered at the Emerging Technology Centers at the Johns Hopkins University Eastern campus in Baltimore, it has R&D resources in Belgium, Poland, Russia and China employing 39 scientists worldwide.
The company's latest program can describe what it "sees" in photos. "CaptionBot," as it's called, does a pretty decent job at describing simple everyday scenes, such as a person sitting on a couch, a cat lounging around, or a busy restaurant. But it seems to be programmed to ignore pictures of Nazi symbolism or its leader. CNNMoney gave CaptionBot several photos of Adolf Hitler and variations of the swastika to analyze, and it often came back with "I really can't describe the picture" and a confused emoji. It did, however, identify other Nazi leaders like Joseph Mengele and Joseph Goebbels.