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Microsoft Build 2017 off to a Great Start

Build is here and already off to a great, but lengthy start.

I have to admit this is the first keynote that I have been to that ran longer than 2 hours, ultimately topping out at a robust 3 hours. However, Microsoft has a lot to pack in and a lot to talk about.

We’ve already seen Azure Cosmos DB, AI, Bots, Cortana, Cognitive Services, and so much more.  Some of the quick highlights from the keynotes that stood out were the ability to build your own AI in minutes, real time translation within PowerPoint and using AI in different ways including for workplace safety. If privacy is a concern of yours I would suggest now that you find a remote island and move now. Smart, intelligent services are coming and they will be pervasive, smart and everywhere.

Build Your Own Artificial Intelligence in Ten Minutes

One of the many newly announced services with upgrades, new options and disruptive is AI and Microsoft’s Cognitive Services. During the keynote, we were able to see a quick build out using Microsoft Custom Vision, a new service which allows a user to create a computer vision application with basically no training and launch it in 10 minutes or less. Later today, I will, of course, be trying it myself but for now, I’ll take their word for it.

Another notable service is Computer Vision, using which a user can create their own custom vision API model, using only perhaps a few dozen pieces of data to train your AI. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I had assumed that it would take hundreds or thousands of sample data sets to train your AI, but no more.

This could significantly speed up development time as well as make it easier than ever for organizations, governments, businesses and individuals to use visual data points like photos and videos to easily identify a person or thing. Further down the line, it could be applied in various situations: how about tracking of ex-inmates? Or, say a professional sports team wants to track a particular athlete and contractually they agree that they can be monitored? This is, of course, notwithstanding privacy concerns, but the possible applications cannot be overstated.

Microsoft did mention a few times that we can use any camera or device to do these things, and with the ability to run code or applications locally or on the edge you can, in theory, run your AI anywhere. Good stuff.

Translate During your PowerPoint

I know I’ve run into this problem before, but what happens when you have a non-native speaker attending a presentation that you are presenting using PowerPoint? Today, we saw a sample using PowerPoint’s new plugin that allows for instant and real-time translation of the presentation through subtitles.  Those non-native speakers can even ask questions in their language (assuming it’s on Microsoft’s list of available languages) which will then be translated into text for the presenter. The new extension leverages Microsoft’s Translation APIs to translate your content into different languages, including Chinese, English, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish to name a few.

The world continues to get smaller—and people closer— as we remove the barriers of geography and language. Using this feature, I can give a presentation in my locale and use that same PowerPoint in a remote location like China or France, which would save a lot of time and effort on my part.

Monitoring My Workplace for Safety with AI

I will admit that this one made me uncomfortable—really uncomfortable if I am being honest with myself.  However, the implications of the technology and its potential to keep people safe, meet compliance requirements, and have continuous 24/7 monitoring are astonishing.

We saw an example of a construction workplace and, using the Azure Stack, Azure IoT Edge, Microsoft Cognitive Services and specialty cameras, we were able to see how artificial intelligence could one day save lives by predicting accidents, alerting you of unauthorized personnel, tools being handled by non-approved personnel, and more. One particular example we saw was in regards to a jackhammer. The jackhammer was stored standing up, against a bench, was a potential accident in wait. The AI recognized this hazard and alerted a nearby worker that the jackhammer was being stored incorrectly.

In the live demo you can see how the app tracks all of the different tools with listed names of the employees, and continually monitor for any activity that doesn’t meet the requirements in real time. It was amazing to see the real time tracking, and alerting/messaging occur in when something abnormal was detected.

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