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A demonstration of Stack Overflow’s new chatbot, built using Microsoft’s AI technology. (GeekWire screenshot)

Software developers stuck with a thorny programming problem now have a new option when browsing Stack Overflow: a chatbot built using Microsoft’s artificial intelligence technology.

Introduced during a session at Microsoft Ignite Monday morning, the chatbot lets developers ask questions about programming technology on Stack Overflow, a popular resource for developers looking for a little help. It was a joint project between Stack Overflow and Microsoft, and it relies on a few different aspects of Microsoft Cognitive Services and Microsoft Bot Framework, Stack Overflow said in a blog post.

Stack Overflow already uses artificial intelligence to power some of the services available on its site, such as connecting developers who have questions with developers who have answers, and assisting job hunters, said David Fullerton, chief technology officer for Stack Overflow, on stage at Ignite. “We want you to spend less time searching for answers and more time writing code,” he said.

David Fullerton, CTO at Stack Overflow, speaks at Microsoft Ignite 2017. (GeekWire screenshot)

The new chatbot allows developers to pose questions about a problem they’ve run into in natural language, upload a screenshot of their code for additional troubleshooting, or type some code into the bot for instant analysis. The bot then returns relevant pages from Stack Overflow’s library of technical content or generates proper code for cutting and pasting into a development environment.

A fair amount of the hype around chatbots last year seems to have worn off, but work on the technology continues to progress as developers look for new ways to interact with their users. Cloud providers have followed suit, through services like Lex from Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform Machine Learning APIs.

Artificial intelligence was a common theme running throughout Monday’s presentations to IT professionals at Ignite, a year after Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made AI one of the company’s core efforts with the creation of the Microsoft AI and Research division. The company also added new AI-based features to Dynamics365 that allow users to deploy chatbots and “virtual agents” into their customer service products.

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