Amazon Web Services Inc. says it’s trying to break down accessibility barriers around machine learning technology and make it possible for anyone who’s interested to become an expert in the field.
To that end, the company is launching an artificial intelligence and machine learning education and scholarship program that’s specifically aimed at underrepresented and underserved students around the world. The company is also boosting access to machine learning with the launch of a free version of its Amazon SageMaker service that’s used by enterprises to build, train and deploy machine learning models in production.
The AWS AI & ML Scholarship, announced today during Amazon’s annual re:Invent, which it styles as a “education” conference, provides educational content centered on machine learning basics. What’s more interesting, though, is that students will be able to use the AWS DeepRacer service to to put their new-found machine learning skills into action.
AWS DeepRacer is an autonomous 1/18th scale race car that’s designed to test machine learning models by racing on a physical track. Students have to design and build models for the autonomous race car. Then, using cameras to view the track and a reinforcement model to control throttle and steering, the car shows how a model trained in a simulated environment can be transferred to the real world.
AWS said data from the World Economic Forum shows that technological advances will create about 97 million new technology jobs worldwide by 2025, with many positions likely to require skills in AI and machine learning. That’s all well and good, but Amazon says it wants to be sure that those new positions will be open to anyone, not just those who are privilege enough to afford an education.
“Making educational resources available to anyone interested in technology is critical to encouraging a more robust, diverse pipeline of people in artificial intelligence and machine learning careers,” the company explained.
Amazon said the AWS AI & ML Scholarship will provide no-cost access to dozens of hours of free machine learning model training and educational materials. Moreover, Amazon intends to reward 2,000 qualifying students from underrepresented and underserved communities with a scholarship for the AI Programming with Python Udacity Nanodegree program, which teaches about programming tools and techniques that are fundamental to machine learning. The top 500 students will earn a second Udacity scholarship on deep learning and machine learning engineering that Amazon said will prepare them for a career in artificial intelligence and machine learning.
The students – and anyone else – will also be able to hone their newfound machine learning skills on Amazon SageMaker Studio Lab, the new, free version of Amazon SageMaker that doesn’t require users have an AWS account to get up and running. Instead, users can sign up with an email address through their web browser and gain immediate access to a SageMaker machine learniing development environment.
Amazon said SageMaker Studio Lab serves as both a free learning environment for students, and also a free test lab for prototyping new machine learning models. With it, users are offered unlimited sessions with up to 15 gigabytes of persistent storage to save their projects. The service also provides up to 12 hours of central processing unit and four hours of graphics processing unit compute resources at no cost.
Holger Mueller of Constellation Research Inc. said he was encouraged to see AWS launching the scholarship because he believes that educating and upskilling populations is critical for the success of economies everywhere.
“Providing a free version of AWS SageMaker is a very smart move, both from the point of view of helping society and also for familiarizing people with the AWS AI toolset,” Mueller said.
Swami Sivasubramanian, vice president of Amazon machine learning, said the company is trying to open up educational opportunities in machine learning so that anyone who’s interested is able to learn and potentially build a career for themselves.
“Machine learning will be one of the most transformational technologies of this generation,” he said. “If we are going to unlock the full potential of this technology to tackle some of the world’s most challenging problems, we need the best minds entering the field from all backgrounds and walks of life.”