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Image recognition and analysis with the new Einstein Vision technology. (Salesforce Image)

Salesforce is introducing a new wave of artificial intelligence technologies under its Einstein initiative this morning, including the first AI technology from the fledgling Salesforce Research group — a project called Einstein Vision that lets developers add advanced image recognition and analysis to apps running on the company’s sales and customer service platforms.

This is part of a groundswell across the tech industry, as machine learning and artificial intelligence emerge as key areas for many companies. The big question now is how much of the current activity is mere hype, and whether AI can deliver meaningful value in its current state.

Salesforce CEO and Chairman Marc Benioff

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and other Salesforce executives will make the case for Einstein at an event later this morning, announcing that the first Einstein AI technologies are now available to all Salesforce customers. The new push comes a day after the company announced a new partnership with IBM to combine its Watson artificial intelligence technologies with Einstein features with the goal of creating new capabilities inside Salesforce’s customer relationship management platform and related services.

The overall idea is to automatically analyze large amounts of data, from a variety of sources, to make predictions that guide decisions and actions by Salesforce customers. For example, Einstein features in the company’s Sales Cloud will automatically analyze the latest news, M&A reports and financial results as part of a broader data set to help salespeople prioritize their customer prospects. In the company’s Commerce Cloud, the system analyzes order history, product information and customer data to better target customers.’

Salesforce cited customers including Air France, Seagate and US Bank as already using Einstein features.

“It’s all about taking these technologies that are really rampant in the consumer space and bringing them to the enterprise in a really seamless, easy way, so that every Salesforce user can take advantage of artificial intelligence,” said Allison Witherspoon, Salesforce director of product marketing, in a briefing about the new Einstein features.

The new Einstein Vision technology from Salesforce Research is a set of APIs that let developers incorporate image recognition and analysis into Salesforce apps. For example, the company showed an Einstein Vision demonstration that analyzes rooftops to determine whether they’re pitched or flat, a key factor in solar panel installation, and therefore a valuable data point for people in solar panel sales.

Other examples include the ability for consumer packaged goods companies to use Einstein Vision to automatically analyze store shelves to check stock, ensure proper placement of products, and make sure their brands are being displayed properly in stores.

“This is getting Salesforce developers, who know and love that environment, access to state-of-the-art deep learning, without being deep learning experts,” said John Ball, general manager for Salesforce Einstein.

Einstein Vision will be generally available on March 14 for all Salesforce developers, with a pricing model based on the number of API calls made by an app that enables the technology.

[Editor’s Note: Salesforce is a GeekWire annual sponsor.]

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