Microsoft introduces new Azure AI tools for developers

Artificial intelligence (AI) and edge computing are front-and-center at Build 2018, and Microsoft's latest additions to Azure are no exception. From new cognitive services to an architecture for deep neural network processing, Microsoft announced several new tools are on the way for developers.

One of the biggest developments is that Microsoft is open sourcing the Azure IoT Edge Runtime. This should make it easier for developers to build and customize applications for edge computing devices. Additionally, the Custom Vision cognitive service can now run on Azure IoT Edge, giving devices like drones the ability to analyze and act on visual information without being connected to the cloud.

A new unified Speech cognitive service is now available for developers, allowing them to easily add speech recognition, text-to-speech, translation, and more to their apps. That's in addition to a Speech Devices SDK, which gives developers access to audio processing form multi-channel sources, more accurate speech recognition, far-field voice, and noise cancellation. The SDK can be used by developers to build applications for things like smart speakers and drive-thru ordering systems.

Microsoft's Project Brainwave, which is a deep learning acceleration platform built for real-time AI processing, is now available on Azure and the edge. Microsoft is also releasing the Azure Blockchain Workbench, which is intended to make it easier for developers to build blockchain applications.

Lastly, Microsoft says it is planning new updates to the Bot Framework, which, when combined with its cognitive services, should provide richer conversational AI experiences.