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Azure OpenAI Service helps customers accelerate innovation with large AI models; Microsoft expands availability


The service has a new responsible AI system that filters out harmful content and helps detect abuse. Additionally, Azure OpenAI Service now offers access to more models, including GPT-3, Codex and embeddings models. Codex can generate code and translate plain language to code, while embeddings make semantic search and other tasks easier. The service also offers new capabilities for customers to fine tune models for more tailored results. 

Giving customers the guarantees and promises of Azure 

Azure OpenAI Service is enabling customers across industries from health care to financial services to manufacturing to quickly perform an array of tasks. Innovations include generating unique content for customers, summarizing and classifying customer feedback, and extracting text from medical records to streamline billing. The most common uses have been writing assistance, translating natural language to code and gaining data insights through search, entity extraction, sentiment and classification. 

Chart outlining how Azure OpenAI Service has helped Farmlands summarize customer interactions.
Azure OpenAI Service has helped Farmlands, a rural supplies cooperative in New Zealand, summarize customer interactions, classify them as “neutral,” “negative” or “positive” and extract keywords to gain insights into customer trends more quickly. Image courtesy of Farmlands.

“One of the most interesting things is the variety of use cases that can be supported off of a single model,” said Eric Boyd, corporate vice president for Azure AI at Microsoft. “Azure OpenAI Service is really leading the way with these new large language models and giving customers the guarantees and promises in Azure that this is going to be reliable and secure, and their privacy will be protected, as they explore this incredible frontier of what’s possible with these new technologies.” 

Through OpenAI’s API and Azure OpenAI Service, CarMax used GPT-3 to abstractly summarize and fine tune 100,000 customer reviews into 5,000 well-written summaries. The job would have taken CarMax’s editorial team 11 years to complete, said Kevin Hopwood, a principal software engineer at the company.  

The summaries and other model-generated content have improved customer engagement and search engine optimization, while the time saved has enabled CarMax’s content creators to focus on deeper research, long-form articles and more creative tasks, he said. 

“The best thing we can do is free up their time so they can explore new content ideas and new ways to engage customers,” said Hopwood.

YouTube Video

Used car retailer CarMax has used Azure OpenAI Service to help summarize 100,000 customer reviews into short descriptions that surface key takeaways for each make, model and year of vehicle in its inventory.

Azure’s security, compliance, reliability and other enterprise-grade capabilities will enable CarMax to scale its use of GPT-3 in cases requiring the extraction of millions of keywords. The model’s ability to learn with just a few examples of intended outputs, a process called few-shot learning, will help CarMax’s 60 product teams use the models without needing any additional teams of data scientists.  

“Being an Azure service, this tool puts a lot of power into our traditional Microsoft C# engineers that they didn’t have before,” said Sean Goetz, director, application systems at CarMax. “We can expand it to other teams just like any other Microsoft tool set.” 

Building systems to support responsible AI

The power of GPT-3, which is pre-trained on a vast amount of internet text, comes with a risk of generating harmful or unintended results. Microsoft has made significant investments to help guard against abuse and unintended harm, which includes requiring applicants to show well-defined use cases and incorporate Microsoft’s principles for responsible AI use. One important way CarMax and other customers meet the criteria is by having humans in the loop to make sure model outputs are accurate and up to content standards before they’re published. 

The new responsible AI system integrated in Azure OpenAI Service can help filter out content that is sexual, violent, hateful or related to self-harm. The team plans to add additional filters and customization features as they work with customers during the preview period and learn what’s needed in practice.


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