Microsoft Azure Uses Machine Learning to 'Get the Feels': A New Take on Business Cloud Storage

by Shirish Phatak on January 27, 2016

A number of disparate projects by Microsoft could soon converge into a single technology that is one part astounding, one part unbelievable, and one part creepy. The inevitable possibilities, however, are as interesting as shocking. The technology is in development under the name Project Oxford. Project Oxford is a suite of tools for developers based on machine learning (ML), also known as artificial intelligence (AI).

Building on and Improving Existing Microsoft Technologies

Could future smart homes track not only where you are in your home and what you're doing, but also how you feel about it?

Project Oxford is built on the platform that is responsible for the Microsoft personal assistant Cortana, Skype Translator, facial recognition technology, spell checker, Microsoft Hyperlapse, speaker (voice) recognition software, image processing and recognition software, and other existing or developing technologies. However, the next step for these tools is even more impressive than its predecessors.

Inevitably, Project Oxford should culminate in devices that are powered by software applications that can recognize and even respond to human emotions. For example, one day you could unlock your home because it recognizes your voice. Once inside, your home could track you, your spouse, and your kids as you meander through the home, alerting you in the event that the toddler strayed into somewhere unsafe. Even if the fire alarm sounded, the voice recognition software could understand your screamed commands over the blaring noise.

Project Oxford: Born and Raised in the Cloud

Project Oxford is based in the cloud, meaning that it never needs to be patched or updated. It applies artificial intelligence to video processing capabilities -- such as the ability to recognize the emotions on faces within images or videos. This has the practical application of applying metadata to videos and/or still images, but it could also allow computers to identify and track faces as the images of people move around in videos, and even detect the movement of objects within the images. Another potential application for this technology would be to remove the excess movement from a video taken with a shaky camera person.

Potential Uses for Project Oxford Technologies

Eventually, voice recognition software could be used in places that have historically been out of reach for such technology, such as on noisy job sites.

Atop the old spell check capabilities, the technology in development could make contextual spelling and grammar corrections. For example, it would understand and be able to apply the differences among their, there, and they're or two, too, and to. The technology could also be able to identify the speaker using a software application. This could be used for authentication purposes, but it could also identify the speakers in closed captioning, conference calls, or video presentations.

Already in beta testing is CHRIS, or Custom Recognition Intelligence Services. This technology allows a developer to build speech recognition capabilities into applications for use in particularly challenging environments. For example, the voice recognition software could be used to understand the voice of a small child and convert his or her speech into text. Or, it could be used to build software to empower a kiosk with voice recognition capabilities that could be used in noisy environments like a sports facility or shopping mall.

Additionally, Microsoft has made huge strides in their facial recognition software in terms of recognizing and identifying faces in regards to facial hair, gender, age, and even the ability to determine the emotional state of a person.

Project Oxford is built in the Microsoft Azure private cloud, making it easily available to the developers who need it. This business cloud storage is also available for a number of other projects and developments. Together with Talon Storage's collaboration and sharing tools, Microsoft Azure can take your ML endeavors to new heights. See our
customer success stories here.

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