When AWS announced a new scale model autonomous car last week, it was easy to dismiss it as a publicity stunt for the benefit of attendees at the company’s annual AWS re:Invent customer conference.

AWS describes the new autonomous car this way: “AWS DeepRacer is a 1/18th scale race car which gives you an interesting and fun way to get started with reinforcement learning (RL). RL is an advanced machine learning (ML) technique which takes a very different approach to training models than other machine learning methods. Its super power is that it learns very complex behaviors without requiring any labeled training data, and can make short term decisions while optimizing for a longer term goal.”

The company also announced the AWS DeepRacer workshop, a kind of hackathon/race to get people interested in the concept. It was actually a precursor to the company’s AWS DeepRacer League coming next year. Participants will be racing these cars in competitions throughout the year at twenty AWS events with the goal of winning the AWS DeepRacer 2019 Championship Cup at AWS re:Invent 2019.

The real reason for all of this was about getting programmers, especially the younger generation, interested in machine learning. In particular, AWS wants people to begin using Sagemaker, the AWS tool for building, managing, and deploying machine learning models. In particular, it helps you to understand reinforcement learning in a fun and challenging way. More importantly for AWS, it encourages people to get started using these kinds of tools on the AWS cloud.

Machine learning for the masses

You may be wondering what any of this has to do with you. All of this is meant to provide a fun way to introduce companies to machine learning and to get you thinking about how you could be using it inside your organizations, or helping your clients take advantage of it in their applications.

Most MSPs likely don’t have a huge level of artificial intelligence/machine learning expertise on staff. The strength of cloud services has always been about stripping away complexity and Sagemaker helps reduce at least some of the heavy lifting you would need to get started with machine learning. As a key technology moving forward, this could help your staff get started.

Think of the car as a fun learning tool that can gamify your learning experience. If that piques your interest, you’ll find the DeepRacer car on Amazon.com. It will eventually retail for $399, but is currently available for the introductory price of $249. Note: it won’t start shipping until early March.

Photo: Amazon Web Services

Posted by Ron Miller

Ron Miller is a freelance technology reporter and blogger. He is contributing editor at EContent Magazine and enterprise reporter at TechCrunch.

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