Skype is getting the power of the Cortana virtual assistant thanks to Microsoft’s new bot framework, and with it, the power to book hotels, buy things online and plan your day.
With Cortana available on Skype, Microsoft’s AI assistant will be able to scan conversations to provide information cards. And when it sees something that may need a reminder, it can private message the user to set one up. It can even call in third-party bots to get things done.
Skype group program manager Lilian Rincon showed off how it works on stage today at Microsoft’s Build developer conference. When Cortana noticed she needed to book a hotel, it knew to look for a Westin location since that’s Rincon’s preferred hotel. After confirming the date and location, Cortana brought in the Westin Hotel bot to complete the reservation.
Cortana then reminded Rincon that she had a friend who lived in the city she was traveling to, prompting her to connect and set up a get-together.
The whole thing was done inside a Skype conversation on a Windows 10 Mobile phone, with a mix of text, info cards and even speech-to-text translation.
Microsoft is opening up the bot framework to developers starting today. It’s another way Microsoft is opening its most impressive technology to outside developers almost as soon as it is unveiled.
It’s part of CEO Satya Nadella’s vision for “Conversation as a Platform,” which he announced at the conference today, including a series of underlying technologies for developers to create and refine their own AI chatbots.
“Ultimately it’s not going to be about man vs. machine; it’s going to be about man with machine,” Nadella said. Microsoft wants to build technology that gets to “the best of humanity, not the worst,” he said, to laughter from the audience, referencing the company’s ill-fated Tay chatbot experiment, which Nadella acknowledges was “not up to this mark.”