At this year’s event, Synology’s hardware showcase wasn’t just about emphasizing the new products the company are bringing to market but also how the software behind those products is becoming more advanced. More specifically, the focus was squarely on how Synology's products are becoming more tightly-integrated with AI techniques like machine and deep learning.
We spoke with Allen Kao, Synology’s CTO, and came away with several key insights about the how the company is looking to tackle AI in 2018 and more.
There’s always room for improvement
It sounds obvious but, since releasing their Moments photo management software last year, Kao says that Synology have been hard at work on improving it. After all, AI-driven features are all about learning from feedback, and Kao readily admits that “we have seen a lot of feedback from Moments users since we released the application.”
He says most user feedback is positive but some rare users find the facial recognition in Moments fell short when it comes to children, especially twins.
“Some users complain later that they can’t differentiate their kids,” Kao says, “it’s very difficult to differentiate kids, especially [younger] children, because their facial features are not easy to get classified.”
Kao says that, with enough data, a deeper model will be able to overcome such hurdles.
He says that the company are continuing to refine their AI learning models in pursuit of this goal.
Moments is about more than just storage
Speaking with Kao, we also took to chance to ask about what additional AI-driven features might be coming to Moments in the future.
Kao revealed that the company are looking to roll out a suite of auto-optimisation features including brightness, exposure, and saturation calibration and image rotation to Moments in the future. In short: more of the post-processing technology that rivals like Google are using to enhance their own image management experiences.
Beyond that, Kao also said Synology have developed some models for beautification, but gave no timeline on whether and when any post-processing features based on these models might roll out.
Of course, all this is optional. Kao reminds us that users will be able to opt out if they want.
Advanced in AI and renewed concerns over data privacy can be an opportunity
Switching gears to talking about the competition, Kao argues that Moments offers several key advantages over Google Photos.
It’s “much larger than cloud storage and much cheaper,” he says.
According to him, “We believe that video and photo taken by users will have more benefits when stored in the NAS”
“Of course, I believe that, in terms of AI, Google is quite strong - but I think that if users want to choose NAS as their form of primary storage, they must have some concern for their data. If we provide a similar feature in our private cloud, I think users will be more willing to put their data in our storage solutions”
“I think photos continue to be important data for users so we are going to develop and put more AI feature and non-AI feature into Photo Station because photo application is quite an important application for Synology and for users so, maybe five years, we have more computing power and I think we can use AI to do more things for users."
“Previously, we have some concerns to put more deeper models into NAS because we have not enough computing power but in [the] future….” he teased.
Referencing the arrival of Europe’s GDPR legislation earlier this year, he observes that “if people have concerns about privacy in the public cloud, it’s maybe a chance for us.”
Synology intends to add more AI to their other software solutions
It turns out Moments isn’t the only Synology product experience that the company are looking to augment with AI.
Kao says that the company’s MailPlus app will also be getting new AI and machine-learning driven functions and features in the near-future.
Invoking the specter of their biggest competitor, he says that “Gmail has a lot of AI features.”
“We are upgrading to add some of those features to MailPlus”
Voice integration hasn’t been forgotten about
When asked about building on the Alexa integration the company introduced last year for their AudioStation software, Kao says that “we have interest to develop such features” but didn’t go into detail.
Perhaps more interestingly, Kao was also open to the idea of Siri integration when asked.
“In [the] latest iOS, Siri is allowed integration with third-parties. Maybe in our iOS app we can have some integration with Siri. Maybe we can connect to our NAS and have it do something. Maybe...”
“Maybe!” he emphasizes.
Disclosure - Our coverage of Computex 2018 was sponsored by ASUS, who covered the cost of our flights and accommodation.