Even after the debacle last week with Tay.ai, it appears Microsoft isn’t done with bots. At Microsoft Build 2016, the company just announced a brand new bots (or conversation agents) framework.
The framework allows developers to build chat bots for their applications easily. The BotBuilder software development kit (SDK) is available on Github, where it’s been licensed under the open source MIT license.
While there are some alternatives to this framework, and several apps, like Slack, come with their own bots on board, this should make it easier for developers to implement a system to communicate with users using natural language appropriate to the context.
“Bots are like new applications. And digital assistants are meta apps, or like the new browsers. And intelligence is infused into all of your interactions. That’s the rich platform that we have.”
– Satya Nadella, Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft
These bots are part of the Cortana Intelligence Suite. Another component of the Cortana Intelligence Suite is Microsoft Cognitive Services, which is a set of APIs which help the systems see, hear, and actually comprehend what’s happening when we, the users are using natural language to communicate.
Microsoft had a PR nightmare last week with Tay.ai, the chat bot they released on Twitter, which could “talk” to you and learn from you. It started off well enough, but the Twitter account was soon full of racist, sexist, and generally inappropriate tweets. The more incendiary tweets were taken down by Microsoft and the Twitter handle has since been taken private.
In spite of this, Microsoft is going forward with its new AI and bots platforms, and has even released some example applications. “Seeing AI” is one such app that allows blind people to get details about their surroundings. The developer, a Microsoft engineer named Saqib Shaikh, is blind himself. Microsoft released a short video showing off Seeing AI, which you can check out below.
Microsoft also created BuildBot using its new Bots framework. This is a chat bot for all things related to Microsoft Build 2016 and it can communicate with you using SMS, Skype, and Slack.
BuildBot can help you navigate the Microsoft Build conference from within your favorite messaging platform. You can ask BuildBot which sessions are presented on a specific topic, when and where a session is being presented, Build speakers, food logistics, even venue WiFi info and nearby Hotels.
After decades of Windows and Xbox, it’s interesting to see the new fields Microsoft is focusing on. And Microsoft is definitely not alone, with other big names like Google and Facebook developing their own AI platforms.
What do you think about Microsoft’s bot announcement at Build? Let us know in the comments below, or on Google+, Twitter, or Facebook.