Now anyone can harness the power of machine learning with Google’s new AutoML

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are everywhere you look. Along with voice assistants like Siri, Cortana and Google Assistant; Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlists, Gmail’s smart replies and even Google’s personalised search results are all examples of this helpful technology that you might have encountered. The problem is, most implementations of machine learning are developed by only a handful of companies. The reason? Developing advanced machine learning models is costly and requires the very best talent.

However, this could all be about to change thanks to the announcement of Cloud AutoML from Google, a service designed to help businesses and developers with limited ML expertise start building their own high-quality custom models.

The first release in the series, AutoML Vision, aims to make it faster and easier for developers to create custom ML models for image recognition. The idea is businesses will be able take advantage of Google’s leading image-recognition technology without any understanding whatsoever of how its advanced machine learning models work. What’s more, it’ll be possible to build a production-ready model in only a day. How on earth is that even possible, I hear you say. Because all you need to do is give AutoML Vision the data you’d like it to train on, and it automatically creates the custom model for you in no time at all. Impressive, right?

One company hoping to benefit from the new service is Urban Outfitters.

“Creating and maintaining a comprehensive set of product attributes is critical to providing our customers relevant product recommendations, accurate search results, and helpful product filters”, says Alan Rosenwinkel, a data scientist at the company.

“However, manually creating product attributes is arduous and time-consuming. To address this, our team has been evaluating Cloud AutoML to automate the product attribution process by recognizing nuanced product characteristics like patterns and necklines styles. Cloud AutoML has great promise to help our customers with better discovery, recommendation, and search experiences.”

In the past, Google has offered pre-trained ML models via APIs that perform specific tasks. But because AutoML Vision lets a business input its own data, it’ll be possible to create high quality models that are much better suited individual needs. In fact, the possibilities are almost endless.

“We believe Cloud AutoML will make AI experts even more productive, advance new fields in AI, and help less-skilled engineers build powerful AI systems they previously only dreamed of,” Google explained in its press release.

It’s certainly an exciting prospect and should represent a significant landmark in the history of AI. However, while Google’s services will no doubt be used for a lot of good, I have one niggling concern. If Google is the only company that understands how advanced machine learning works (and prevents others from doing so), won’t the company have yet another monopoly over the way we use tech and indeed the way we live our lives?

If you’re a developer or business and are interested in trying out AutoML Vision, there’s a form on Google’s website you can fill out to request access.

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