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Google Wants Businesses to Use Its A.I. to ‘See’ and Sort Photos

January 17, 2018, 2:00 PM UTC

Google wants to help its corporate customers “see” photos better with the assistance of artificial intelligence.

The search giant unveiled a new service on Wednesday for businesses to build apps that can automatically recognize images. It is a technology akin to Google’s image search tool that can quickly retrieve photos on the web based on what a person searches for.

The new Cloud Auto ML (machine learning) service is part of a larger push by Google (GOOG) to convince companies to use its cloud computing and business-related services, like online storage or workplace software. In pushing into cloud computing, Google faces intense competition from companies like Amazon (AMZN) and Microsoft (MSFT).

Although Google currently offers a tool that coders can use to create apps that can quickly sort thousands of photos, knowing how to correctly use it requires expertise in cutting-edge AI techniques like deep learning. The new service is intended to simplify part of the process required to create apps that can quickly recognize images in photos by providing an easy-to-use tool that resembles more conventional software tools like Google Docs.

To use the service, businesses must upload examples of images that they want their computers to automatically recognize. A shoe retailer, for example, could upload images of shoes and label them with the terms they want the software to automatically recognize, like shoelaces. Or customers can have Google staff label the data on their behalf.

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After being “trained” on the correctly labeled data, the new Google service takes about a day to create a formula, or model, that companies can then embed into their apps to make them automatically sift and organize photos. In the future, Google hopes to reduce the time it takes to create these models.

Some of the companies testing Google’s new service include Urban Outfitters and Walt Disney.

Rajen Sheth, a Google Cloud senior director of product management for AI, said during a press briefing that Disney (DIS) used the service to improve the search results of its online shop. With the Google service, people can more quickly find products like shirts that feature specific Disney characters through Disney’s online store, even if the images haven’t been properly labeled with the characters’ names.

Google said it doesn’t have a set price yet for the technology and until it creates one, the company will determine pricing specific to each customer.

A Google spokesperson declined to comment on how the new service compares against competing services sold by Amazon and Microsoft. Sheth said that based on feedback so far, Google’s customers say “they are very pleased with the quality” of Google’s new service when compared to other similar services, but he didn’t elaborate.