Add machine learning to your app with Microsoft Project Oxford

Want to play with advanced features like face recognition and language understanding? Microsoft makes these goodies available in the cloud for free

Add machine learning to your app with Microsoft Project Oxford
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Machine learning has caught fire lately, in part because the cloud has made it so much easier to implement. With cloud machine learning services from Amazon, Microsoft, and Google, you don't need to build and manage a farm of rules engines. All you need is a set of training data and a RESTful API.

That's fine for a certain set of problems -- say, where you're trying to guide consumers to making purchases, then checking whether there might be a fraudster in the bunch. But what if you're trying to identify objects, translate languages, or recognize faces?

Microsoft has begun opening up its alternative machine learning tooling and APIs on the Project Oxford service. You may have seen some of its tools in action in the viral How-Old.net service, which attempts to guess a person's age based on an uploaded photograph.

Fun with artificial smarts

Project Oxford's APIs are easy enough to use once you register for a subscription key. Services are managed through the Azure portal, which also handles billing. At the moment the service is free, though there are transaction limits: 20 per minute for the Face API, for example, with a maximum of 5,000 transactions per month.

With your subscription key in hand, you access the services through Azure, with APIs listed as subscribed Marketplace services. The service generates primary and secondary keys that are used to verify access to the service via its SDKs.

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