Getting started with AI can be simple. Decide on the functions you need, locate a service with the features to match, and sign up. Easy.
This approach reduces any technical demands and keeps setup hassles to a minimum, but it won’t work for everyone. Choosing a standard tool means it’s unlikely to do absolutely everything you require, and it won’t be optimized to suit your business.
Even if you don’t ultimately end up using the platform, technical users may find it useful to explore what’s on offer. Even top providers like Amazon, Microsoft and IBM allow you to build and test basic tools for free, and the experience will help you understand what you should expect and demand from other AI services.
1. Amazon Machine Learning
Amazon Web Services (AWS) has been delivering powerful cloud-based services to businesses for more than 10 years. It’s best known for products like Amazon’s Simple Storage Service, but now offers much, much more, including some of the most versatile machine learning tools around.
Amazon Comprehend is a natural language processing service which can analyze documents, social media posts or other text sources to extract their meaning and relationships. You could use this to identify what customers believe are the best or worst points about your products, for instance. Or the service could help you organize content, perhaps grouping news items by subject, or recommending new content to customers based on articles they’re read before.
Amazon Translate is a fast and accurate neural machine translation service, used by Hotels.com to (amongst other things) translate some of the 25 million customer reviews the company receives every day.
Amazon Lex helps you extend your applications with Amazon Alexa-level conversational interfaces using voice and text. Bonus language services now include smart translation and natural-sounding text-to-speech. And there’s a whole separate group of image and video analysis products which support object and facial recognition, person tracking, facial analysis, text extraction and more.
These are all very professional services and aimed at developers rather than the total novice, but they’re not difficult to use, and there are no bulky subscriptions to pay. As ever with AWS, you can sample most services for free, and after that you pay only for what you use. To scan and categorise 240MB of research documents with Amazon Comprehend, for instance, would cost you a one-off fee of $1.56 (£1.25), and that would then allow you to recommend individual documents to users based on their area of interest.