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What’s New with Cognitive Services and AI at Microsoft Ignite 2020?

Microsoft’s annual Ignite conference for technology leaders is underway. Curious about what’s been said about AI at Microsoft Ignite 2020? We were too. With the growing relevance of AI today, it makes sense for it to be a prevalent topic at Ignite. Here’s a look at some of the biggest news in AI from the conference.

Sharepoint Syntex in Project Cortex

Microsoft announced Project Cortex last year. As a response to customer feedback during that private preview, they’ve created Sharepoint Syntex, a way to automate and accelerate categorization processes. Sharepoint Syntex allows you to teach AI to read documents and extract information in the same way as with no-code AI models. Then the content is automatically processed, extracted, and given metadata. This makes it much easier to find and use content, and it also improves compliance management. It can apply sensitivity and retention labels and flag important files.

How much does SharePoint Syntex cost?

Sharepoint Syntex will be available for purchase to Microsoft 365 E3/E5 commercial customers starting Oct. 1 as an add-on. On top of that, later this year Microsoft will also be releasing new services that organize information into topics and help deliver knowledge in a more streamlined way throughout Microsoft 365. SharePoint Syntex pricing is currently unavailable but it’s estimated to be $5/user/mo.

Metrics Advisor in Azure AI

What's New with Cognitive Services and AI at Microsoft Ignite 2020? 1

Azure Cognitive Services are broken down into three umbrellas: Decision, Vision, and Speech. Within the Decision category there’s a new service in preview called Metrics Advisor. It assesses the performance of an organization’s growth engines (such as sales revenue or manufacturing operations) by combining near-real-time monitoring, scenario model comparison, granular analysis, diagnostics, and alerts. Anomaly Detector, which Metrics Advisor is built on, is also now generally available.

Spatial Analysis Adds to Computer Vision

Image shows an anonymous customer walking through a store.

In the Vision category, a new feature called Spatial Analysis helps organizations optimize their physical spaces. It creates apps that analyze people’s movement: for example, it can count room capacity at given times, aggregate the footsteps taken in a store, analyze dwell time in front of a retail display, determine wait times in lines, or measure the spaces between customers (how well are your customers social distancing?). These capabilities can add finesse to a retail company’s understanding of its customers and how its space is used. Microsoft insists that this technology follows strict ethical standards and guidance for organizations on how to implement it responsibly.

Power Automate Desktop

This new public preview expands on the robotic process automation (RPA) capabilities of Power Automate. It provides a new desktop automation option for business users and citizen developers. Its intuitive design allows non-coders to easily automate processes across both desktop and web applications. New capabilities are thanks to Microsoft’s acquisition of Softomotive earlier this year.

Project Trove

A smartphone using Project Trove to classify images taken with the camera.

A social approach to sourcing material for training image classifiers, Project Trove is an app that pays users to contribute to AI projects. By connecting developers with photo takers in a transparent marketplace, Microsoft hopes to help accelerate AI projects while incentivizing folks to assist with the initial classification and labeling of images. Sound interesting? Try out Project Trove today on your Android device.

Bot Framework Composer

Interested in building bots? The Bot Framework Composer is a new open source tool available on GitHub, allowing for visual bot development that can be used within the Virtual Assistant Solution Accelerator. Developers can now use this tool directly within Power Virtual Agents for faster building. Also in bot news, the Alexa channel is now generally available in Azure Bot Service so that developers can easily deploy one bot across different channels.

Microsoft Premonition

Photo of Microsoft Research hardware for Project Premonition that is used to identify pathogen carrying mosquitos.

Microsoft Premonition is a Microsoft Research project that started in 2015 to identify pathogen-carrying mosquitos. The goals is to use robots and AI to identify and prevent the spread of the next global epidemic. At Microsoft Ignite 2020, Microsoft announced that it is opening up project Premonition to partners for production deployments. Learn more about project Premonition on its Microsoft Research page.

.NET 5 Scheduled for Release November 10, 2020

.NET 5 doesn’t really fall into Cognitive Services or AI, but it is commonly used to interact with those services. Version 5 has new enhancements which include smaller and faster single-file applications that use less memory. This makes it work well for microservices and containerized applications across operating systems. There will also be significant performance improvements, support for Windows ARM64, and new releases of the C# 9.0 and F# 5.0 languages. This release candidate will be generally available on November 10.

Tangentially related, since .NET commonly runs on App Services, the announcement of Reserved Instances for App Services is great news for developers looking to cut costs!

Other Announcements Beyond AI at Microsoft Ignite 2020

What's New with Cognitive Services and AI at Microsoft Ignite 2020? 2

In case you missed it, we also covered general announcements at Microsoft Ignite, largely based on the latest Azure news. For the non-AI announcements at Microsoft Ignite 2020, head on over and take a look!

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