MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIF.—Google is launching a new SDK for machine learning for its Firebase developer platform called “ML Kit.” The new SDK offers ready-to-use APIs for some of the most common computer-vision use cases, allowing developers that aren’t machine learning experts to still add some ML magic to their apps. This isn’t just an Android SDK; it works on iOS apps, too.
Typically, setting up a machine learning environment is a ton of work. You’d have to learn how to use a machine learning library like TensorFlow, acquire a ton of training data to teach your neutral net to do something, and at the end of the day you need it to spit out a model that is light enough to run on a mobile device. ML Kit simplifies all of this by just making certain machine learning features an API call on Google’s Firebase platform.
The new APIs support text recognition, face detection, bar code scanning, image labeling, and landmark recognition. There are two versions of each API: a cloud-based version offers higher accuracy in exchange for using some data, and an on-device version works even if you don’t have Internet. For photos, the local version of the API could identify a dog in a picture, while the more accurate cloud-based API could determine the specific dog breed. The local APIs are free, while the cloud-based APIs use the usual Firebase cloud API pricing.