Microsoft’s recently launched, A.I.-powered bot Tay may have embarrassed the company when Twitter users taught the machine how to be racist, but Microsoft hasn’t given up on the future of bot development. It’s just getting started.
At Microsoft’s annual Build conference in San Francisco today, CEO Satya Nadella unveiled the company’s plans to bring the world of bots to “conversational platforms” – meaning not only Skype, but also other communications tools like Slack, Outlook, LINE, and more.
News of the bots’ unveiling was previously reported by Bloomberg, but today’s onstage demonstrations revealed how bots, including Microsoft’s own virtual assistant Cortana, aim to help pave the way for the future of communication, productivity, and interactions with businesses and brands.
In Skype, the company showed off rich Cortana integration which put the assistant directly into the app where she could help users do things like identify the persons, places and things in your messages, underline them, and then display more info in a card-like interface when clicked.
She is also able to help you perform a variety of tasks, like adding items to your calendar, booking travel or hotel rooms, or even pre-populating conversations to friends with text.
What’s interesting about Cortana’s integration in Skype is how it has a larger understanding of everything you’re chatting about and doing – it’s not just focused on the single task at hand.
For example, in the demo shown today, Cortana was able to figure out that the user was attending a conference referenced in a personal chat with co-worker, block calendar and travel time for the event, and then even proactively introduce a hotel bot into the conversation to suggest hotel rooms.
The Westin bot, then, popped up, displayed a variety of room choices with image thumbnails and pricing. In two steps, the hotel room was booked and the information was added to the user’s calendar automatically.
And because Cortana understands a user’s connections, she also suggested that the user message a friend who lived in the city – and even helpfully wrote some of the message text to the friend on the user’s behalf.
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