Skip to main content
  • 5 min read

Azure AI: Build mission-critical AI apps with new Cognitive Services capabilities

As the world adjusts to new ways of working and staying connected, we remain committed to providing Azure AI solutions to help organizations invent with purpose.

As the world adjusts to new ways of working and staying connected, we remain committed to providing Azure AI solutions to help organizations invent with purpose.

Building on our vision to empower all developers to use AI to achieve more, today we’re excited to announce expanded capabilities within Azure Cognitive Services, including:.

  • Text Analytics for health preview.
  • Form Recognizer general availability.
  • Custom Commands general availability.
  • New Neural Text to Speech voices.

Companies in healthcare, insurance, sustainable farming, and other fields continue to choose Azure AI to build and deploy AI applications to transform their businesses. According to IDC1, by 2022, 75 percent of enterprises will deploy AI-based solutions to improve operational efficiencies and deliver enhanced customer experiences.

To meet this growing demand, today’s product updates expand on existing language, vision, and speech capabilities in Azure Cognitive Services to help developers build mission-critical AI apps that enable richer insights, save time and reduce costs, and improve customer engagement.

Get rich insights with powerful natural language processing

One of the ways organizations are adapting is scaling the ability to rapidly process data and generate new insights from data. COVID-19 has accelerated the urgency, particularly for the healthcare industry. With the overwhelming amount of healthcare data generated every year2, it is increasingly critical for providers to quickly unlock access to this information to find new solutions that improve patient outcomes.

Uncover insights in medical data with Text Analytics for health.

We are excited to introduce Text Analytics for health, a new feature of Text Analytics that enables health care providers, researchers, and companies to extract rich insights and relationships from unstructured medical data. Trained on a diverse range of medical data—covering various formats of clinical notes, clinical trials protocols, and more—the health feature 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.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Microsoft partnered with the Allen Institute of AI and leading research groups to prepare the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset. Based on the resource of over 47,000 scholarly articles, we developed a COVID-19 search engine using Text Analytics for health and Cognitive Search, enabling researchers to generate new insights in support of the fight against the disease.

Additionally, we continue to make advancements in natural language processing (NLP) so developers can more quickly build apps that generate insights about sentiment in text. The opinion mining feature in Text Analytics assigns sentiment to specific features or topics so that users can better understand customer feedback from social media data, review sites, and more.

Save time and reduce costs by turning forms into usable data

A lot of the unstructured data is contained in forms that have tables, objects, and other elements. These types of documents typically take manual labeling by document type or intensive coding to extract insights.

We’re making Form Recognizer generally available to help developers extract information from millions of documents efficiently and accurately—no data science expertise needed.

Extract text and structure from documents with Form Recognizer.

Customers like Sogeti, part of the Capgemini Group, are using Form Recognizer to help their clients more quickly process large volumes of digital documents.

“Sogeti constantly looks for new ways to help clients in their digital transformation journey by providing cutting-edge solutions in AI and machine learning. 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.” – Mark Oost – Chief Technology Officer at Sogeti, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Wilson Allen, a leading provider of consulting and analytics solutions, is using Form Recognizer to help law and other professional services firms process and evaluate documents (PDFs and images, including financial forms, loan applications, and more), and train custom models to accurately extract values from complex forms.

“The addition of Form Recognizer to our toolkit is helping us turn large amounts of unstructured data into valuable information, saving more than 400 hours of manual data entry and freeing up time for employees to work on more strategic tasks.” – Norm Mullock – VP of Strategy at Wilson Allen

Improve customer engagement with voice-enabled apps

People and organizations continue to look for ways to enrich customer experiences while balancing the transition to digital-led, touch-free operations2. Advancements in voice technology are empowering developers to create more seamless, natural, voice-enabled experiences for customers to interact with brands.

One of those advancements, Custom Commands, a capability of Speech in Cognitive Services, is now generally available. Custom Commands allows developers to create task-oriented voice applications more easily for command-and-control scenarios that have a well-defined set of variables, like voice-controlled smart home thermostats. It brings together Speech to Text for speech recognition, Language Understanding for capturing spoken entities, and voice response with Text to Speech, to accelerate the addition of voice capabilities to your apps with a low-code authoring experience.

In addition, Neural Text to Speech is expanding language support with 15 new natural-sounding voices based on state-of-the-art neural speech synthesis models: Salma in Arabic (Egypt), Zariyah in Arabic (Saudi Arabia), Alba in Catalan (Spain), Christel in Danish (Denmark), Neerja in English (India), Noora in Finnish (Finland), Swara in Hindi (India), Colette in Dutch (Netherland), Zofia in Polish (Poland), Fernanda in Portuguese (Portugal), Dariya in Russian (Russia), Hillevi in Swedish (Sweden), Achara in Thai (Thailand), HiuGaai in Chinese (Cantonese, Traditional) and HsiaoYu in Chinese (Taiwanese Mandarin).

Customers are already adding speech capabilities to their apps to improve customer engagement. With Cognitive Services and Bot Service, the BBC created an AI-enabled voice assistant, Beeb, that delivers a more engaging, tailored experience for its diverse audiences.

We are excited to introduce these new product innovations that empower all developers to build mission-critical AI apps. To learn more, check out our resources below.

Get started today

Learn more with the resources below and get started with Azure Cognitive Services and an Azure free account.

1 Worldwide Artificial Intelligence Predictions (IDC FutureScape 2020).

2 Adapting customer experience in the time of coronavirus (McKinsey 2020).