Microsoft Build 2019 is officially underway in Seattle, Washington and the first day was pretty exciting. This is the 9th year that Microsoft has had a “Build” and this year’s focus is to empower developers of all kinds, from experienced computer scientists to tech beginners with big idea as well as showcase new product innovation.
I braved the east coast storms and airline maintenance issues to make the 12 hour trek (it should have been 5…) to attend my first and hopefully not my last Build event and I was blown away. I’ve said this before but I am continuously impressed with what Microsoft is doing to drive innovation and real world outcomes in the world of AI.
We started off the day with the keynote by Microsoft CEO and industry hero, Satya Nadella. Who set the theme for the keynote and event by emphasizing two things. First, that Microsoft’s vision is about empowering every person and organization to do more and secondly, that Build is all about imaging what is possible but more importantly making it possible. The customers stories that were showcased, and they were plentiful, most certainly represents both those points.
Nadella talks about its 4 major platforms – Azure, Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform, Microsoft 365 and Gaming
Here are my thoughts and takeaways from Satya’s keynote as it relates to AI and Data Analytics:
1) The majority of his talk track revolves around Data Analytics and AI. Let me be clear, Build is not an AI or Data Analytics conference. Microsoft has tons of other products from gaming consoles to Office. Still, the majority of what was talked about was either to enable AI capabilities OR AI embedded in Microsoft’s products to provide a better experience. I was extremely excited and blown away about how much of an emphasis was put on this.
2) Microsoft is putting A LOT of work into its Cognitive Services and its incredible. The first thing I like about Cognitive Services is that its the walk part of the Crawl, Walk, Run analogy. If you or your organization doesn’t have all the skill sets to go in and create custom models or write very complex code, Cognitive Services provides capabilities without having to have that skill set. Back when I was at Microsoft’s AI Immersion event, I was given some time to play with the Cognitive Services and trust me, if I can do it so can you. These services are all around the senses like vision and speech but they also include things like language, search decision. My favorite was the Speech service where it was announce that is has been hardened to give ability to be trained on company or industry data to show unique vocabulary. In the tech world we have some pretty unique vocabulary/abbreviations (C++, IOPS, RAM, Kubernetes, etc.) so now this speech service can recognize those words for real time voice to text translation.
3) Microsoft is investing heavily in tools, frameworks and workbenches to make Data Scientists more productive whether in Azure public cloud or on the Azure Stack on-prem. Their announcements around their Azure Machine Learning platform were centered around:
- Automated machine learning user interface that enables business domain experts to train machine learning models with just a few clicks.
- Zero-code, visual interface that enables users new to machine learning to build, train, and deploy models easily using drag and drop capabilities.
- Azure Machine Learning notebooks that provides developers and data scientists a code-first machine learning experience.
4) Everything is being driven through software and more and more, software engineers are going to work for non-tech companies. This was an interesting statement but it makes sense. In this world of digital transformation, all companies need to embrace software and really become a tech company in order to survive. MasterCard for example calls themselves a technology company not a credit card company. I think this will continue to be an interesting trend.
5) The work that Microsoft is putting into Cortana is AMAZING. Cory, soon you wont have to manage my calendar anymore :). Microsoft is integrating Cortana into everything and it looks like it will be extremely useful This video is pretty awesome and shows what Cortana can do now and in the not so distant future.
There were a lot of other great parts of Satya’s keynote and if you want to check out the highlights here they are:
For the first time ever, the Microsoft Imagine Cup Championship and Build happened at the same time. If you don’t know what the Imagine Cup is, its pretty much an opportunity for college students to showcase their innovation in a competitive setting for a chance to win. Trust me when I tell you these students are freaking amazing. They had the finals at Build today where the final 3 teams competed. All three projects were extremely interesting but the one that stood out the most (and won) was the project centered around being able to detect blood glucose levels from scanning your eye. The goal of EasyGlucose is to stop patients with Diabetes from having to prick their finger to get a reading. This 18 year old named Bryan who goes to UCLA developed this himself and created all the models. Oh, yeah its 93% accurate compared to the finger prick baseline. I can’t remember what I was doing at 18 but it wasn’t this. Congrats to all three teams.
Build was all about real world customer stories and product announcements. Here are my favorite stories I heard today.
Starbucks – I dont want to give too much away since this story is so amazing we are doing a dedicated blog on this… stay tuned. I will say that thanks to AI, when you order a Ham and Cheese Sous Vide Egg Bite it will be in stock!
Kroger – They took advantage of cameras in the stores already and used object detection to see when a specific item on the shelf was empty. This would trigger an alert to restock the shelf or make sure item was on order. Apparently there are billions of dollars a year in missed revenue as a result of just not restock inventory from whats in the back. Wow!
St. Judes and Microsoft are partnering up to provide DNAnexus using Azure genomics and creating a research cloud for scientists from different organizations to work with the same data. Hugely impactful in our fight against cancer.
Lastly, it wouldn’t be a build with out some face melting announcements. Here is the complete list of what was announced. Its a lot!
All in all, today was super educational and fun. Thanks to Microsoft for putting on a great day 1. I’ll continue to say this… Microsoft is a visionary in this space and are doing great things. Congrats