Microsoft announces new Azure AI capabilities for apps, healthcare, and more

The latest announcements will help companies enhance their voice-enabled application experiences and provide critical data management across healthcare industries.

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In the era of digital transformation, more organizations across industries are looking to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance day-to-day operations. In recent weeks, a number of organizations have tapped AI to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. These applications range from using AI systems to monitor social distancing and contact tracing to identifying potential treatments for COVID-19. Earlier today, Microsoft announced a series of updates to the Azure AI system to help with everything from enhanced healthcare data management to leveraging the latest voice-enabled technologies for enhanced customer engagement experiences.

Text Analytics

In partnership with the Allen Institute of AI and other research groups, Microsoft developed the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset. Utilizing nearly 50,000 scholarly articles, the team created a COVID-19 search engine. This search engine uses Microsoft Cognitive Search and Text Analytics for health to allow researchers to produce new medical insights to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

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As part of the Microsoft announcement, the company unveiled a new Text Analytics for health feature. This new Text Analytics feature will allow healthcare organizations, providers, and researchers to gain insights and correlations from unstructured medical information. This new feature has been trained on a wide spectrum of medical information and is capable of "processing a broad range of data types and tasks, without the need for time-intensive, manual development of custom models to extract insights from the data," per Microsoft.

Form Recognizer

Currently, unstructured medical data is stored in forms comprised of objects, tables, and other ordering components. To effectively gain insights from this unstructured data, people historically have had to manually label or code each of these document types. To assist with this arduous process, Microsoft also announced a generally available Form Recognizer tool enabling individuals more expeditiously extract this data in an accurate and efficient way.

"Our Cognitive Document Processing (CDP) offer enables clients to process and classify unstructured documents and extract data with high accuracy resulting in reduced operating costs and processing time. CDP leverages the powerful cognitive and tagging capabilities of the Form Recognizer to extract effortlessly, keyless paired data and other relevant information from scanned/digital unstructured documents, further reducing the overall process time," said Mark Oost, chief technology officer at Sogeti.

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Custom Commands

Microsoft also announced a Custom Commands feature designed to assist with voice-enabled applications and integration. Overall, the feature merges the Azure's Speech to Text, Text to Speech, and Language Understanding allowing customers to quickly add their voice capabilities to their apps "with a low-code authoring experience." Custom Commands uses Speech in Cognitive Services capabilities and is now generally available. Microsoft also announced that its Neural Text to Speech would be offering language support with "15 new natural-sounding voices based on state-of-the-art neural speech synthesis models."

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