Amazon is the quiet one when it comes to AI, but it has a number of well-developed AI services that are worth knowing about. To attract your attention, its computer vision system Rekognition will now guess, sorry, estimate, your age.

When you think of AI you tend to think of Microsoft and Google with their amazing research efforts and high profile AI services like translation services and computer vision. You might wonder what Apple is up to behind closed doors, but not many think of Amazon as a leader in the field. You should.

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Amazon’s AI has recently come to public attention in the form of its Alexa powered devices. Of course, this isn’t real AI it is just speech recognition plus some templates and a speech synthesizer. If you think this then it is a mark of how far AI has come already.  Language processing was and is a big AI area and if speech recongition has become a commodity service then it proves that we are making big progress.

About two years ago Amazon started offering AI services, Amazon AI Services, as part of AWS. The most notable is probably Lex which is the language processing system behind Alexa. It offers an online automatic speech recognition service, which converts speech to text; and a natural language understanding service, which can be used to try and work out the meaning.

Poly is the other end of the problem in that it converts text to “lifelike” speech. Put Lex together with Poly and you have a complete voice-based UI.

There is also a general purpose machine learning service, which really isn’t AI but standard statistics – it uses logistic regression rather than a neural network. It may not be AI in the strict sense, but it still can do a lot that ends up looking like AI.

In fact the closest Amazon gets to offering a neural network service is Rekognition, which we previously put through its paces last year. This is a network, trained by Amazon, to recognize objects in photographs. You simply give it a photo and it returns an analysis of what it is looking at. The data it can return varies from a bounding box to emotion, gender, eyes open, etc. Now it also includes an estimated age range for a person – and we all know that this will end in tears, see  How Old – Fun, Wrong, Potentially Risky? for our conclusions about the early day’s of Microsoft’s age estimation app.

To try out Amazon’s new offering, what better than a photo of Jeff Bezos himself:

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For the record Bezos is 53 at the time of writing, but who knows how old he was in the photo. The main thing you need to notice is the age range – 38 to 57 is a wide estimate.

The suggestion is that this sort of estimate could be useful in estimating demographics or something similar that doesn’t need an accurate age estimate. It also raises the question of how good humans are at estimating age and what features are used.

Given Amazon’s AI is part of AWS, which has lots of users, and each of the services have a free tier it makes it very easy for a large number of probably non-AI users to give AI a try.

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