Offering off-the-peg AI services like image and speech recognition is a key part of Google’s pitch to customers as a cloud computing provider. The company is now taking its AI-easy approach one step further with Cloud AutoML, a new tool that will let users train their own custom machine learning algorithms from scratch, without having to write a single line of code.
You might have heard of Google’s AutoML initiative before now. It was announced at the company’s I/O conference last year, and is focused on creating machine learning software that can design machine learning software, a hot area of research in the AI community. (The basic premise is simple: you make different algorithms compete with one another, pick the winners, and then make them compete. Rinse and repeat.) Cloud AutoML isn’t working with tools as sophisticated as this, but it does aim to solve the same underlying problem of making AI less painful to code.
Cloud AutoML does this by offering users a simple graphical interface for training their own machine learning model. So far, the service is limited to image recognition, letting users drag and drop a set of pictures, and then watching as the software starts picking out recurrent elements or items. Urban Outfitters, for example, is testing how Cloud AutoML might be used to identify items of clothing in their catalog, so users can filter by certain characteristics.
In a blog post, Google’s chief scientist of cloud AI, Fei-Fei Li, said: “Currently, only a handful of businesses in the world have access to the talent and budgets needed to fully appreciate the advancements of ML and AI. There’s a very limited number of people that can create advanced machine learning models. [...] While Google has offered pre-trained machine learning models via APIs that perform specific tasks, there’s still a long road ahead if we want to bring AI to everyone.”
Google certainly has a sterling reputation when it comes to artificial intelligence, but it remains to be seen if tools like Cloud AutoML can help it take business away from competitors like Microsoft’s Azure and market leader Amazon Web Services. Both these companies also offer their own pre-trained AI tools as well as tools for building and customizing models. Google has been very successful at getting its AI smarts to help consumers, but can it convince businesses to sign up, too?