Windows 10 gets its own AI platform

Posted Mar 8, 2018 by James Walker
Microsoft has announced that it's adding a new AI platform to Windows 10 as part of a future update. It's developing an API that will allow app developers to directly access the machine learning capabilities of hardware chips on Windows PCs.
Microsoft s Windows Developer Day 2018
Microsoft's Windows Developer Day 2018
Windows ML
Announced during the company's Developer Day yesterday, Microsoft said its new "Windows ML" architecture will let devs add pre-trained machine learning models to their apps. It's similar to rival on-device AI platforms being developed by companies such as Google and Qualcomm. Microsoft aims to encourage adoption of AI by making it easier for developers to add advanced models to their apps.
Models available on the platform will include AI targeted at common tasks such as computer vision, speech recognition and machine reading. They'll be optimised for efficiency and designed to run across a broad spectrum of modern Windows hardware. One of the biggest challenges facing AI on Windows 10 is the vast array of hardware configurations that apps need to support, spanning everything from cutting-edge workstations to decade-old desktops.
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Microsoft has partnered with silicon makers including AMD, Intel, NVIDIA and Qualcomm to develop Windows ML. It's optimising the platform for efficiency, allowing developers to make the most of the hardware that's available. As part of its work, Microsoft will add support for new device driver categories to support purpose-built AI coprocessors in future PCs.
AI models consumed from Windows ML will run across the entire Windows device family, including PCs, laptops, servers and IoT devices on the edge. Developers will also be able to target emerging forms of hardware, such as Windows Mixed Reality and Windows Holographic products. Models are provided in the ONNX format, a standard developed by an industry consortium that includes Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon Web Services.
Intelligent apps
According to Microsoft, the addition of a built-in AI platform will let developers build apps with more "intelligence." The company pointed to new features in its own first-party apps, such as Cortana, Office 365 and Photos, that demonstrate how AI can aid computer users. Windows ML is an attempt to make AI more accessible, so additional developers and apps can begin to utilise it.
"At Microsoft, we're making huge investments in AI and Machine Learning across the company," said Microsoft. "With the next major update to Windows 10, we begin to deliver the advances that have been built into our apps and services as part of the Windows 10 platform. Every developer that builds apps on Windows 10 will be able to use AI to deliver more powerful and engaging features."
Developers will get their first look at Windows ML with the launch of Visual Studio Preview 15.7. This will support automatic generation of AI model interfaces after adding an ONNX file to Windows Store app projects. Microsoft's also planning integrations with the MLGen tool for older Visual Studio versions, as well as its Visual Studio Tools for AI suite.