Skype is getting infused with conversational “bots”

An army of AI helpers promise to arrange appointments, order food, and book hotels, and more.

Microsoft is hoping to make Skype conversations a bit smarter by injecting then with artificial intelligence.

At its Build 2016 conference, Microsoft demonstrated how Cortana, along with other third-party “bots,” can provide more information and potential actions as part of Skype messaging. As a basic example, Cortana will highlight key parts of a conversation, which users can tap on to pull up more information.

But that’s just the beginning. During any conversation, users will also be able to pull up a private AI chat window, where they can talk to Cortana and other bots.

Say for instance that you’re talking to someone about an upcoming event. You can then ask Cortana to mark your calendar, and it’ll automatically fill in location details from that conversation. At that point, your preferred hotel chain might chime in with a reservation offer. Cortana could then remind you that you have friends in the area, and offer to connect with them during the trip.

Ambitious as that sounds, Microsoft is releasing the first version of these bots today in Skype for Windows, iOS, and Android. Still, it’ll be up to third-party developers to build out the bots functionality, using a software development kit that Microsoft is also now offering.

Down the road, similar intelligence will be coming to video conversations. Microsoft plans to offer video bots for connecting with businesses, brands, and possibly even entertainment characters, though the company didn’t demonstrate these functions during its keynote.

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Jared Newman

PC World (US online)
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