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March 30, 2016

Microsoft bots want to empower our digital future

by John_A

Microsoft believes that intelligent bots and personal digital assistants will allow us to do more things in the future and is looking to integrate them at the core of Microsoft’s services going forward. 

“It is not man vs machine, it is man with machine,” explained Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella during the Microsoft Build 2016 keynote. 

Creating a new “Microsoft Bot framework” for developers to be able to add bots to any part of the Windows universe, Microsoft is hoping that companies will build bots for it to help users to get more from Microsoft devices. 

Using Cortana at the heart of the experience, the company demoed a new version of Skype at its developer conference that will use a number of bots to help you get things done. 

It will be one of the first apps from Microsoft to get intelligent bots that are designed to aid users by giving them more information. 

In the demo, Lilian Rincon, a senior exec at Skype, showed how Cortana was able to see that she had an upcoming conference and suggest a hotel that she regularly stays at, before calling in a Westin Hotel bot to help book the room. The Westin Hotel bot was then able to book a room by seeing that she was already having a conversation about the room already with Cortana.

The new bot feature will be available in all versions of the Skype app today for people to try out.

Other examples for bots include a Domino’s Pizza bot that would automatically order you a pizza when you ask it to, or a bot that will be able to tell you what objects are in a picture.  

The idea is for these bots to be able to understand natural language, so rather than having to use specific commands, the bot can interpret the words used, identifying things like times, people and locations, to take appropriate actions. That sort of intelligence is something that we already see in Cortana, Google and Siri, but Microsoft wants to push these services in new directions.

Microsoft isn’t the first company to use bots to help you get things done, but is the first to approach the bot world on such a large scale. 

Communications tool Slack, that is challenging Skype in the workplace, has offered “intelligent” bots for some time allowing you to integrate other services into the chat windows.

Microsoft has said that the framework will be open and that bots will work with “conversation canvases” like Slack. 

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