Building AI applications is hard work, but cloud vendors are making it easy by exposing simple-to-call, pay-as-you-use APIs.

Want to add real-time speech recognition to your app? There’s an API for that. Want to recognize faces in an image? There’s an API for that and many more, courtesy of cloud giants Amazon Web Services (AWS), IBM, Google, Microsoft, and Salesforce and smaller, specialized vendors like Clarifai and Indico.

These APIs are here, but more are coming, with greater accuracy and functionality and they will be powering legions of new AI-enhanced applications.

Five categories of AI APIs are available today:

  • Vision: making applications see – analyze the content of photos and videos to recognize objects, individuals, landmarks, handwriting, brand logos and higher-level concepts, as well as conduct facial analysis
  • Speech: making applications listen and speak – convert speech to text and text to speech, identify the speaker, and analyze speech for insights
  • Language: making applications understand – recognize entities, extract intent, topics, and sentiment, translate text and even perform psychometric analyses or recognize the text’s political alignment
  • Conversation: making applications interact – determine intent, follow up with questions, and then take appropriate actions
  • Knowledge: making applications encyclopedic – find relevant information either through greater search functions, by accessing enhanced data, or by returning decisions based on submitted and/or external data

Don’t let these APIs be your only AI strategy though. These APIs are still focused on a limited set of common use cases where data is widely available. Few offer extensive customization options and there is always the risk that they may be neglected or discontinued in the future.

For areas where you want to use AI to build unique competitive advantage, you will need to build your own AI capabilities, but for all those other use cases, take a look at these APIs. Forrester clients can read our recent report “AI APIs In The Cloud Are Here.

(This post originally appeared on the Forrester Research blog, which can be viewed here).

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Kjell Carlsson

Kjell Carlsson

Kjell Carlsson is a senior analyst with Forrester Research.