In a move that should surprise exactly nobody, Amazon is releasing artificial-intelligence tools for developers.
It’s another sign of the escalating battle between the world’s largest tech firms to commoditize artificial intelligence and machine learning. Amazon has spent considerable time and resources building Alexa, an A.I. companion that can interact with users via natural language; products that leverage Alexa’s abilities include the Echo, a cylindrical speaker that can respond to commands. The company’s decision to release some of the technology underlying Alexa into the developer ecosystem suggests that it now wants to compete against Google and Microsoft as a purveyor of A.I. tools.
The new releases include Amazon Polly, which lets developers build applications that can talk back to the user; Amazon Lex, a toolkit for building chatbots; and Amazon Rekognition, which can analyze and identify elements in images. (In theory, a developer could blend these tools to create a customer-service chatbot capable of responding to spoken requests, for example.)
Amazon’s AWS blog offers some insight into Lex, which will compete directly against similar offerings from Microsoft’s Azure Bot Service and Facebook’s Bots for Messenger; Google’s recent purchase of API.AI suggests the search-engine giant will soon get into this part of the A.I. game, as well.
According to the blog, Lex tries to make bot-building a relatively straightforward process. Here’s a look at the developer interface:
Over the past year, Google has opened up different parts of its own A.I. platform to developers. In July, it launched Cloud Natural Language and Cloud Speech APIs in beta; both of those platforms can help apps perform language and sentiment analysis. Two months before that, it open-sourced SyntaxNet, a neural network framework for determining the meaning in language.
With Amazon entering the fray, and other companies likely to either introduce their own chatbot and natural-language toolkits in the near future, developers will have more choices than ever if they want to build out their own A.I.-enabled platform. But what will they do with all these cool toys?