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Salesforce releases AI tool to detect sarcasm in a tweet

Salesforce today released a suite of tools for its product developers with artificial intelligence features that, among other things, recognize sarcasm in an email and understand that it is a product complaint.

Richard Soucher, Salesforce's chief scientist, tells Axios that the new tools, part of the company's Einstein platform, will allow clients, without having to write their own AI code, to build out products with a greater ability to read the sentiment in an email, and route it to the right place. A company — such as an airline — could understand much more quickly that passengers are angry on Twitter, and generally why. Customers often use nuanced expressions to convey their unhappiness — such as sarcasm — and the tool is meant to understand such indirect speech.

Another tool will identify individual objects in a photograph, understanding precisely what is on a store shelf and how many containers of a product are still there. Soucher announced the tools at the O'Reilly Artificial Intelligence Conference, held in New York.

Bottom line: With this release, Salesforce pushes more AI-powered capability into commercial products. It injects a more advanced, off-the-shelf quality into the still-mysterious AI space, suggesting a wider buildout of AI into everyday commerce.

Jaime Carbonnell, director of the Languages Technologies Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, said the new Salesforce capabilities do not advance the field. It is "old tried-and-true technology being applied (probably in a very reasonable way) to relevant problems," he told Axios.

However, Martial Hebert, director of the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon, said the suite does go some way toward democratizing AI — producing "a developer's kit [and] making this accessible to all, not just the experts."