The Microsoft Cognitive Services Computer Vision API contains functionality to infer a lot of information about a given image.

As of this writing, the API is on version 2.0 and supports the following capabilities:

Analyze an Image

Get general information about an image, such as the objects found, what each object is and where it is located. It can even identify potentially pornographic images.

Analyze Faces

Find the location of each face in a video and determine information about each face, such as is age, gender, and type of facial hair or glasses.

Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

Convert a picture of text into text

Recognize Celebrities

Recognize famous people from photos of their face

Recognize Landmarks

Recognize famous landmarks, such as the Statue of Liberty or Diamond Head Volcano.

Analyze Video

Retrieve keywords to describe a video at different points in time as it plays.

Generate a Thumbnail

Change the size and shape of an image, without cropping out the main subject.

Getting Started

To get started, you need to create a Computer Vision Service. To do this, navigate to the Azure Portal, login in, click the [Create a resource] button (Fig. 1) and enter "Computer Vision" in the Search box, as shown in Fig. 2.

Fig. 1

Fig. 2

A dialog displays, with information about the Computer Vision Service, as shown in Fig. 3.

Fig. 3

Click the [Create] button to display the Create Computer Vision Service blade, as shown in Fig. 4.

Fig. 4

At the "Name" field, enter a name by which you can easily identify this service. This name must be unique among your services, but need not be globally unique.

At the "Subscription" field, select the Subscription with which you want to associate this service. Most of you will only have one subscription.

At the "Location" field, select the Azure Region in which to store this service. Consider where the users of this service will be, so you can reduce latency.

At the "Pricing tier" field, select "F0" to use this service for free or "S1" to incur a small charge for each call to the service. If you select the free service, you will be limited in the number and frequency of calls that can be made.

At the "Resource group" field, select a resource group in which to store your service or click "Create new" to store it in a newly-created resource group. A resource group is a logical container for Azure resources.

Click the [Create] button to create the Computer Vision service.

Usually, it takes less than a minute to create a Computer Vision Service. When Azure has created this service, you can navigate to it by its name or the name of the resource group.

Two pieces of information are critical when using the service: The Endpoint and the API keys.

The Endpoint can be found on the service's Overview blade, as shown in Fig. 5.

Fig. 5

The API Keys can be found on the service's "Keys" blade, as shown in Fig. 6. There are 2 keys, in case one key is compromised; you can use the other key, while the first is regenerated, in order to minimize downtime.

Fig. 6

Copy the URL and and one of the API keys. You will need it to call the web services. We will describe how to make specific calls in future articles.