Salesforce launches custom image recognition as Einstein goes GA

The company’s machine intelligence push rolls on with new capabilities

Salesforce is getting into the computer vision business with a new tool designed to let users easily train a custom image recognition system.

Einstein Vision, as it’s known, allows users to upload sets of images and classify them in a series of categories. After that, the system will create a recognizer based on machine learning technology that will identify future images fed into it.

While Salesforce customers will have to wait a couple weeks before Vision is generally available, the company announced Tuesday that other Einstein features based on machine learning techniques are live.

It’s the latest step in a long journey for Salesforce, which began touting Einstein last year and demoed those capabilities at its Dreamforce conference. The company is facing heavy competition, and Einstein might give it an edge against the likes of Microsoft and Oracle.

The Einstein Vision APIs will allow customers to do things like create applications that know how to recognize different brands in photographs, or know how to spot pitched roofs versus flat ones. Developers can then take that custom recognizer and build it into applications.

While those applications can include Salesforce’s CRM, the vision API can also be used to build custom, externally facing applications.

Einstein Vision is a result of the company's acquisition of MetaMind last year. It will be generally available worldwide on March 14th, a week after all the other Einstein features have gone live.

Salesforce’s vision capabilities are similar to other machine-vision APIs that are being touted by its cloud competitors. For example, IBM’s Watson Visual Recognition Service also offers the ability to create custom image classifiers.

It seems unlikely that Salesforce will be competing with the breadth of AI services that other cloud companies like IBM, Google and Microsoft offer. But Michael Machado, a director of product management for Salesforce Einstein, said that the company has an important role to play in the AI ecosystem.

“Really, our customers come to us because they say there are other computer vision technologies out there, but most of them don’t offer the same kind of support plus enterprise reliability that Salesforce can offer,” he said.

While Machado wouldn't say exactly what Salesforce had in the works, he said that the team would continue to develop new features. Furthermore, he pointed out MetaMind’s research into natural language processing as a potential area of interest going forward.

The news comes a day after Salesforce announced a partnership with IBM to connect Watson and other intelligence capabilities from Big Blue with its CRM system. 

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