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Microsoft has released two new features with today’s update to Microsoft Pix for iOS, an app powered by a suite of intelligent algorithms developed by Microsoft researchers to take the guesswork out of getting beautiful photos and videos.
The first of these features, Photosynth, helps create photos that take in more of the perspective or scene you are standing in front of, whether it is wide, tall, or both. It does this by allowing you to freely pan and capture from side to side, up and down, back and forth, and even go back to the start to include any parts of the scene you may have missed.
“The idea came after some frustrations I had when trying to take a picture of Snoqualmie Falls. I didn’t want to have to choose which part of the scene to capture, and I wanted it all with detail. Photosynth means you no longer have to choose. I can now capture the whole scene in a way that feels natural. As with all Pix features, we have also worked to give the best image quality by introducing more intelligent ways to compute exposure and stitching,” said Josh Weisberg, principal program manager within Microsoft’s AI & Research organization in Redmond, Washington.
Photosynth, originally a popular platform for turning digital pictures into 3D panoramas, was launched by Microsoft in 2008 and decommissioned in 2017. Photosynth in Pix shares similarities with the original, leveraging some of the underlying technology, with more features inspired by the original to come. Photosynth in Pix allows for faster and smoother capture, while also making use of Pix’s auto-enhancement capabilities which improve white balance, tone correction and sharpness.
The second feature, Pix Comix, was developed during Microsoft’s OneWeek hackathon and makes use of the core Pix feature Moment Capture in an innovative new way: identifying the most interesting frames in a video to generate a comic strip. Pix uses its deep learning model to score and select three high-quality frames, searching specifically for non-blurry photos, faces with eyes open and interesting scenes.
Pix Comix performs this AI processing on device, selecting the best frames and formatting them into a comic strip. From there, you can add and edit speech bubbles that can be moved, rotated and resized to tell your own story.
Listening and responding to customer feedback on Pix remains a top priority as the app continues to improve and its AI capabilities are further developed. Today’s release marks another step forward in Pix’s commitment to turning that user feedback into new ways to make your pictures even better.
In September, we introduced a new vision for intelligent communications including plans to evolve Microsoft Teams into the primary client for calling and meetings in Office 365. As part of this, we are bringing comprehensive calling and meetings capabilities into Microsoft Teams, along with data and insights from the Microsoft Graph, and a strong roadmap of innovation to empower teams to achieve more.
Today we are releasing new calling capabilities in Teams, providing full featured dialing capabilities, complete with call history, hold/resume, speed dial, transfer, forwarding, caller ID masking, extension dialing, multi-call handling, simultaneous ringing, voicemail, and text telephone (TTY) support. You can expect this to roll out over the next few hours and should come soon to your tenant.
To add calling in Teams for your users, the first thing you need is Phone System (formerly Cloud PBX), which is included with Office 365 E5 and available as an add-on to other Office 365 plans. From there, you can subscribe to a Calling Plan (formerly known as PSTN Calling) for any number of users in your organization.
Together, a Calling Plan and Phone System in Office 365 create a phone system for your organization, giving each user a primary phone number and letting them make and receive phone calls to and from outside of your organization. This solution also allows your organization to shift away from expensive telephony hardware and simplifying by centralizing the management of your phone system.
With the addition of calling, Teams is an even more robust hub for teamwork — the single place for your content, contacts and communications including chat, meetings and calling in a modern, collaboration experience.
Getting started with calling in Teams
To get started with calling in Teams, please review our quick start guide. You can learn more about geographic availability of Calling Plans here. We also invite you to join us live December 18, at 9 AM PDT on Teams On Air to hear guest Marc Pottier, Principal Program Manager discuss and demo calling plans in Microsoft Teams in more detail.
New tools to help increase developer productivity and simplify app development for intelligent cloud and edge, across devices, platforms or data sources
NEW YORK — Nov. 15, 2017 — Wednesday at Connect(); 2017, Microsoft Corp.’s annual event for professional developers, Executive Vice President Scott Guthrie announced new Microsoft data platform technologies and cross-platform developer tools. Guthrie outlined the company’s vision and shared what’s next for developers across a broad range of Microsoft and open source technologies, and how Microsoft is helping them get more done across apps or platforms. He also touched on key application scenarios and ways developers can use built-in artificial intelligence (AI) to support continuous innovation and continuous deployment of today’s intelligent applications.
“With today’s intelligent cloud, emerging technologies like AI have the potential to change every facet of how we interact with the world,” Guthrie said. “Developers are in the forefront of shaping that potential. Today at Connect(); we’re announcing new tools and services that help developers build applications and services for the AI-driven future, using the platforms, languages and collaboration tools they already know and love.”
Across devs, apps, data, platforms
Microsoft is continuing its commitment to delivering open technologies and contributing to and partnering with the open source community. New tools and partnerships are designed to help developers build intelligent, enterprise-ready and cloud-scale apps — regardless of their platform, and to give them the peace of mind with the built-in security, performance, compliance features, support and SLAs available in Azure.
- Designed in collaboration with the founders of Apache Spark, the preview of Azure Databricks is a fast, easy and collaborative Apache Spark-based analytics platform that delivers one-click setup, streamlined workflows and an interactive workspace. Native integration with Azure SQL Data Warehouse, Azure Storage, Azure Cosmos DB, Azure Active Directory and Power BI simplifies the creation of modern data warehouses that enable organizations to provide self-service analytics and machine learning over all data with enterprise-grade performance and governance.
Microsoft Joins MariaDB Foundation
- Microsoft joins MariaDB Foundation as a platinum member and announces the upcoming preview of Azure Database for MariaDB for a fully managed MariaDB service in the cloud.
Azure Cosmos DB with Apache Cassandra API
- The preview expands on the multimodel capabilities of Azure Cosmos DB to offer Cassandra as a service over turnkey global distribution, multiple consistency levels and industry-leading SLAs.
GitHub Roadmap for Git Virtual File Systems (GVFS)
- Microsoft and GitHub will further their open source partnership to extend GVFS support to GitHub. GVFS is an open source extension to the Git version control system developed by Microsoft to support the world’s largest repositories.
Helping developers get more done
Microsoft is releasing tools designed to help developers, development teams and data scientists collaborate and work together more efficiently for application development, deployment and management. New tools and feature improvements help streamline essential tasks, so developers can focus more on getting apps to market across multiple platforms, and for any scenario — whether cloud, mobile or AI.
Visual Studio App Center General Availability
- New cloud service for developers to ship higher-quality applications more frequently. Objective-C, Swift, Android Java, Xamarin and React Native developers can use App Center to increase productivity and accelerate application lifecycle, freeing them to spend more time on new features and better user experiences.
Visual Studio Live Share
- Unique new capability for developers to collaborate in a seamless and secure way with full project context. With this preview, developers can share projects with teammates, or other developers, to edit and debug the same code in their personalized editor or IDE.
Azure DevOps Projects
- The preview lets developers configure a full DevOps pipeline and connect to Azure Services within five minutes for faster app development and deployment. With just a few clicks in the Azure portal, developers can set up Git repositories, wire up completely automated builds and release pipelines without any prior knowledge of how to do so.
Transforming business through analytics and AI
Advances in AI and machine learning are placing the seemingly impossible within reach. The combination of cloud services, infrastructure and tools from Microsoft are designed to help any developer embrace AI and create apps across the cloud and the edge, harnessing the power of data and AI.
Azure IoT Edge
- Azure IoT Edge preview availability, enabling AI, advanced analytics and machine learning at the Internet of Things (IoT) edge.
Azure Machine Learning updates
- Integration with Azure IoT Edge and AI deployment on iOS devices with Core ML, bringing AI everywhere from the cloud to the IoT edge of devices.
Visual Studio Tools for AI
- Developers and data scientists can develop AI models with all the productivity of Visual Studio, on frameworks and languages. Updates to .NET make it easier for .NET developers to consume AI models from their applications.
Azure SQL Database Machine Learning services preview
- Support for R models inside SQL Database makes it seamless for data scientists to develop and train models in Azure Machine Learning and deploy those models directly to Azure SQL Database to create predictions at blazing-fast speeds.
For the next three days, Microsoft is streaming more than 36 live, engineering-led training sessions that are designed to give developers hands-on experience with the tools and technologies featured throughout the keynote presentations.
More about Connect(); 2017 announcements can be found here.
Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) is the leading platform and productivity company for the mobile-first, cloud-first world, and its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.
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SAN FRANCISCO — Box shops will be able to help users gain more intelligent insight into their content with new machine learning technology in the content management tool.
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Box Skills, introduced here at the company’s annual BoxWorks conference, makes it easier to search for visual and audio content and view information about it. Box Feed uses machine learning to curate content for specific users. Plus, new features in Box Relay aim to improve employee workflows. These capabilities caught the interest of attendees at the show.
“It was kind of nice to see Box incorporating [AI] to start relaying things to certain people at the right time in the right place,” said Ryan Foltz, business systems engineer at Barnhardt Manufacturing Company in Charlotte, N.C.
How Box Skills works
Box Skills is a framework that serves as a layer of abstraction between the content organizations upload to Box and the machine learning. It focuses on three areas: Image Intelligence, Audio Intelligence and Video Intelligence.
With the Image Intelligence component, based on Google Cloud Platform technology, Box automatically tags aspects of an image such as the subject, colors and logos, as well as uploads any text from it. Users can click the tags to access other images with similar contents.
Will Sheppardtechnical support specialist, The Enthusiast Network
Video Intelligence uses Microsoft Cognitive Services to provide facial recognition to identify people in a video. It also can show users where repeated phrases come up, and extracts a transcript of the video that users can apply as closed captioning. Audio Intelligence functions similarly, without the visual aspect, and is based on IBM Watson technology.
Using the new Box Skills Kit for developers, organizations can also customize what information within a file the machine learning technology tracks. The tool can track tone of voice in a phone conversation, for example, or pull out specific words a company is interested in and show within the Box content when those words were said. Developers can also customize information in documents such as invoices or contracts, and have Box extract information such as dates, signatures, payment amounts and vendor names. That not only extracts the data, but allows users to fill that information in automatically moving forward.
Image Intelligence is currently in beta, and Video Intelligence and Audio Intelligence will come to beta in 2018, Box said.
Box Feed puts relevant information in front of users
Box Feed, powered by Box Graph machine learning technology, was also previewed at the conference and will be available next year. This feature can help users find the content most relevant to them. It shows users active content — files they have been working on or are mentioned in — as well as other relevant content, which appears in a feed based on who is working on the file and what the content is. If a user generally collaborates with another user who is working on a document, for example, it will likely show up in the relevant section. It also shows trending files, or ones that many users throughout the organization are accessing.
As interesting as these new features are, some companies might need some time to apply them. Barnhardt Manufacturing Company, for instance, is an old organization, but its leaders are getting more and more interested in business data intelligence, said Pete Chantry, application systems manager at the company.
“We’ve got to allow a little bit of time for them to get accustomed to the basic [enterprise content management] features of Box,” Chantry said.
Updates to Box Relay
Box Relay for workflow automation, announced last year and generally available next month, will get some enhancements as well.
First, the add-on will allow workflows to launch automatically, so if a user uploads a resume of a prospective employee for example, the workflow associated with that kind of document will start automatically. Box also plans to release APIs so IT can integrate Relay with existing third-party applications and automated processes. In addition, users will be able to e-sign documents directly in Box. Finally, a new dashboard will let users manage multiple workflows at the same time by showing every active workflow and what step it is on.
“I like the way that all ties together,” said Will Sheppard, technical support specialist at The Enthusiast Network based in Los Angeles. “The whole workflow looks really nice.”
Other new features in Box Relay include the ability to invite other users to edit a document and assign them tasks with due dates within the document. There is also a new annotation tool that allows users to write a comment on a specific aspect of a document and tag other users to look at that exact area.
In addition, users no longer have to download previous versions of a document; they can preview them with a single click. Plus, when a user accesses a document, Box will highlight any changes that other users have made since the last time he was in it, and show which user made the edits. Finally, users can thread comments and mark them as resolved.
Like Box Skills, Relay presents some enticing features for IT, but those at Barnhardt Manufacturing Company are unsure of how to apply Relay immediately.
“I don’t know how often we’d use it, but if we had it, it’d certainly be a nice feature for us,” Foltz said.
SAN FRANCISCO — Oracle has vastly expanded its roster of Adaptive Intelligent Applications, adding the narrowly focused, special-purpose machine learning tools to major modules in its cloud ERP suite — from financials and HR to manufacturing, the supply chain, e-commerce and sales.
The new Oracle AI apps are the latest entry in a race among ERP vendors to show leadership in artificial intelligence, a once-ridiculed technology that has become the hottest trend in IT. Over the past year, Oracle’s closest rivals in enterprise software — including IBM with its Watson cognitive computing platform, Infor with Coleman and SAP with Leonardo — have all announced software similar to the Oracle AI. Cloud CRM heavyweight Salesforce has Einstein.
The new Oracle AI apps were unveiled at the vendor’s OpenWorld conference, which is held here annually. In a podcast from the conference, TechTarget editors discuss the potential impact of the Oracle AI apps.
“I think it is curious that Oracle has refrained from naming its artificial intelligence,” said Brian McKenna, business applications editor of London-based ComputerWeekly. “It’s an interesting way into how they are thinking about artificial intelligence and machine learning. The litany of [Oracle AI business functions] — it’s all very pragmatic, it’s all about automation, and you can see the virtue in that.”
McKenna added that the Oracle AI apps’ emphasis on practicality and automation aligns with the vendor’s other recent technology reveal: an “autonomous” database that, according to CTO Larry Ellison, uses machine learning to repair itself. “That’s been presented as ‘autonomization’ … If you think about it, there is a big difference between automating processes and computers thinking like human beings.”
Jack Vaughan, senior news editor of SearchOracle, recalled similar terminology being used by IBM in 1999. “‘Autonomic’ computing was the watchword,” Vaughan said. “It just didn’t catch on with the general public. There’s been automation: [It’s] what computing has been about since Day One. In terms of the database administrator, great portions of their job have been automated over time. They don’t have to set up memory as they once did, and they wouldn’t expect to.”
Furthermore, the advent of cloud computing has removed the need for human intervention in the scaling of large server farms, for example.
The Adaptive Intelligent Apps help to automate or optimize specific business processes that are often challenging and time-consuming for humans, such as spotting the root cause of production errors in a factory, or identifying the best payment discounts to offer suppliers. Some apps are available now, while others are expected in 2018, according to Oracle.
Today, at the Microsoft Ignite Conference in Orlando, we announced Bing for business – a new intelligent search experience for Office 365 and Microsoft 365, which uses AI and the Microsoft Graph to deliver more relevant search results based on your organizational context. This new experience from Bing for your enterprise, school, or organization helps users save time by intelligently and securely retrieving information from enterprise resources such as company data, people, documents, sites and locations as well as public web results, displaying them in a single experience. Bing for business can be used with a browser on any device, transforming the way employees search for information at work, ultimately making them more productive.
Bing for business is available for private preview starting today and will be available as part of existing subscriptions to Office 365 Enterprise E1, E3, E5, F1, Business Essentials, Business Premium, and Education E5 subscriptions. If you are interested in receiving an invitation to participate in the private preview, visit http://aka.ms/b4bprivatepreview.
Intelligent search to help increase productivity and save time
In our work and personal lives, we spend lot of time in the browser searching for information. Analyzing web search traffic at Microsoft, we realized that as our employees searched the web, a significant amount of search traffic was for internal business-related content. We knew that this wasn’t just the case for Microsoft, but for many organizations, and it prompted the question – If Bing can tell me how high Mt. Rainier is, why can’t it quickly find what a colleague is working on or what are the employee benefits? Bing for business started with these pain points in mind. As we talked with more customers about their challenges in this space, we realized there was an opportunity to create something truly compelling. Our goal was twofold. For end users, we wanted to create an offering that can increase productivity by getting them the relevant and contextual information as quickly as possible. For administrators, we wanted to provide something that is easy to deploy and manage, offers enhanced protection for business search traffic while reducing costs associated with help desk calls. Bing for business provides these benefits to users and administrators with quick and seamless access to internal company information directly within Bing’s web results while keeping the results protected.
For example, let’s say you have an upcoming meeting about a project with a new colleague. Through Bing for business, you can quickly look up their contact information, find out who they report to, see the Office 365 groups they are a part of and much more. Additionally, you will also have web search which may highlight a publicly available blog/portfolio, or other relevant content. This would normally take six or more different searches across multiple locations. Bing for business pulls this data from across the Microsoft Graph and the web to create an experience where you get all this information in one place, so you save time searching.
Bing for business also help you quickly find internal company resources. When you’re trying to find the time card site, trying to figure out vacation policy, or simply trying to find out how much vacation you have left, Bing for business can bring you links to these resources from just searching for “time off.” These bookmarks can be manually curated by the IT Admin or created based on frequency of search terms. Using bookmarks saves you time by helping you get to the right company resources simply by searching for the relevant term all from within Bing.
Bing for businesses key features include:
- Enterprise Bookmarks – Bookmarks provide the fastest way for you to find sites, tools, and other information within the enterprise. Bookmarks can range from timely topics with a short life span like a company event to more permanent bookmarks, such as linking to the internal time and reporting tool.
- People Search – With Bing for business, people search is a quick way to help you search and find a person and understand their role within the company, who they work for, see what they are working on, find out where they are located and get directions through integrated building and office floor maps.
- Organizational Chart – Quick access to the organizational chart to understand a person’s place within the company and further browse their peers, management, and direct reports.
- Building and Floor Plans – Buildings and floor plans help you quickly find your way or locate where a colleague is sitting or to learn your way around a new building.
- Document Search – Allows you to search and find contextual and relevant documents saved on SharePoint and other sources within the Microsoft Graph.
- Office 365 Groups – You will be able to explore the Groups a person belongs to as part of people search and browse their contents. Additionally, they will be able to search for groups by their name.
- Bing for business Industry News – Bing works with your company to understand your job and tasks. Over time, Bing learns which business news matters to you – such as news about your company, competitors, and industry. This feature is a personalized newsfeed on Bing.com, helping you make timely, informed decisions.
- Management and Analytics – IT admins can quickly configure, create bookmarks, and define the search triggers, words or phrases. IT admins will also have a better understanding on how people within the organization are searching the web.
Intelligent search leveraging AI to save you time
Bing for business is built on the Microsoft Graph and uses AI to provide contextual, boundless, and relevant results for your Bing search. These results help employees save time increase productivity.
For example, you have a question on how to set up your work VPN, or how to reset your Bitlocker password. Today, getting these questions answered could include calling tech support and potentially incurring costs associated with the call, searching the public web or the corporate intranet, and browsing knowledge base articles. Bing for business uses Machine Reading Comprehension and Deep Learning to understand the intent of the question across all documents in your enterprise. And since it knows who you are based on your authentication session, it can synthesize the best answer for your specific query across all the documents you can access – from the public internet to your private intranet.
Enterprise grade protection, manageability, and analytics
Bing for business offers enhanced protection for your Bing web searches and treats your enterprise data in a compliant way. Searching with Bing for business requires Azure Active Directory authentication to access results, and the results that are returned are ones the authenticated user has access to, coming directly from the trusted cloud. Search queries are anonymized, aggregated across all companies and separated from public Bing search traffic. Additionally, these queries are not used for displaying targeted ad based on your work or company identity, and company-specific queries are not viewable by advertisers. This provides a level of protection unavailable anywhere else in the industry.
In addition to enhanced protections, Bing for business is easy to manage and deploy. Available as part of Office 365, Bing for business can be easily deployed by adding Bing to your tenant from the Office 365 admin panel. Once added, a quick configuration to set the logo, name, and color is all that is required to set up Bing for business. From there, users that have been enabled for Bing for business can access it at www.bing.com.
Today, Bing for business is in private preview as we move towards general availability next year. During this period, we are interested in partnering with a diverse group of customers to try out the feature, and help us shape future versions. If you would like to request an invitation to participate in the private preview, please visit http://aka.ms/b4bprivatepreview. We look forward to receiving your feedback as we continue to add features and capabilities to Bing for business.
– Deen King-Smith
Sr. Product Marketing Manager | Search, Edge, and AI
To enable developers to build for the intelligent edge, Custom Vision Service from Microsoft Cognitive Services has added mobile model export.
Custom Vision Service is a tool for easily training, deploying, and improving custom image classifiers. With just a handful of images per category, you can train your own image classifier in minutes. Today, in addition to hosting your classifiers at a REST endpoint, you can now export models to run offline, starting with export to the CoreML format for iOS 11. Export will allow you to embed your classifier directly in your application and run it locally on a device. The models you export are optimized for the constraints of a mobile device, so you can classify on device in real time.
Custom Vision Service is designed to build quality classifiers with very small training datasets, helping you build a classifier that is robust to differences in the items you are trying to recognize and that ignores the things you are not interested in. With today’s update, you can easily add real time image classification to your mobile applications. Creating, updating, and exporting a compact model takes only minutes, making it easy to build and iteratively improve your application. More export formats and supported devices are coming in the near future.
A sample app and tutorial for adding real time image classification to an iOS app is now available.
To learn and starting building your own image classifier, visit www.customvision.ai.
Screenshot of a fruit recognition classifier in our sample app.