Amazon launched AWS over 11 years ago, and it’s fair to say they’ve been the leader in Infrastructure as a Service for nearly all of the time since then. However when it comes to higher, application level services, they’ve lagged a bit behind the competition. However with the recent launch of several new offerings, they’re beginning to close that gap. At Amazon re:Invent 2016 in November, they launched a suite of services focused around Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing.
Amazon Rekognition is a deep-learning based image recognition service. Similar to Google’s Cloud Vision API which we’ve written about previously, the Rekognition service allows developers to add intelligence around image processing. The service can detect objects, scenes and faces in images, and allows developers to build search capabilities based on that data.
Amazon Lex and Amazon Polly provide NLP and text-to-speech capabilities. These are two of the primary services backing Amazon’s Alexa product, but they’ve now been opened up as separate services which developers can use to build their own natural language assistants and interfaces. Amazon Lex allows developers to build conversational interfaces and actions using text and speech, and Amazon Polly provides lifelike text-to-speech capabilities with over 47 voices spread over 24 languages.
As previously mentioned, AI and NLP capabilities is one area where Amazon has lagged behind the competition, where for example IBM Watson has been on the market for a few years now, so it will be interesting to see how these services fair as time goes on. And as usual, there are some benefits to using Amazon’s services if you’re already an AWS customer. For example, Amazon Lex can directly call Amazon Lambda functions for actions, opening up interaction with the entire suite of AWS services with minimal development effort.
Although some of the services are still only available in preview, Amazon has been releasing a lot of information on how they will work. The original announcement can be found here in this keynote from AWS re:Invent 2016. As well, Amazon has been hosting a number of “Amazon AI Day” events at their pop-up lofts, including one recently here in NY, where they offered the presentations below which provide more details on the individual services.