Microsoft believes that intelligent bots and personal digital assistants will allow us to do more things in the future and is looking to integrate them at the core of Microsoft's services going forward.
"It is not man vs machine, it is man with machine," explained Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella during the Microsoft Build 2016 keynote before adding that the company's goal was to "take that power of human language and apply it more pervasively to all of the computing interfaces and computing interactions. Bots are like new applications that you converse with, you’re not really looking for multiple applications, or pages and pages of websites," he said.
Creating a new "Microsoft Bot framework" for developers to be able to add bots to any part of the Windows and Microsoft app universe, Microsoft is hoping that companies will build bots for it to help users to get more from Microsoft devices and it's apps.
Using Cortana at the heart of the experience, the company demoed a new version of Skype available on Windows, iPhone, iPad, and Android at its developer conference that will use a number of bots to help you get things done.
It will be one of the first apps from Microsoft to get intelligent bots that are designed to aid users by giving them more information.
"Skype Bots will come to life through messaging today, and in the future will be available for audio and video calling as well," explains Microsoft. "Each Bot will enhance your Skype experience in its own way, bringing a new dimension into your everyday Skype chats by helping turn your ideas and plans into actions."
In the demo, Lilian Rincon, principal group manager of Skype, showed how Cortana was able to see that she had an upcoming conference and suggest a hotel that she regularly stays at, before calling in a Westin Hotel bot to help book the room. The Westin Hotel bot was then able to book a room by seeing that she was already having a conversation about the room already with Cortana.
The new bot feature will be available in all versions of the Skype app on Windows desktop, Android, iPhone, and iPad today for people to try out.
Other examples for bots include a Domino's Pizza bot that would automatically order you a pizza when you ask it to, or a bot that will be able to tell you what objects are in a picture.
The idea is for these bots to be able to understand natural language, so rather than having to use specific commands, the bot can interpret the words used, identifying things like times, people and locations, to take appropriate actions. That sort of intelligence is something that we already see in Cortana, Google and Siri, but Microsoft wants to push these services in new directions.
Microsoft recently hit the headlines for launching an AI bot on twitter called Tay that quickly went "rogue" spewing racist and sexist remarks on Twitter. The experiment, now shut down, "wasn't up to the mark", according to the Sayta Nadella, Microsoft CEO.
Microsoft isn't the first company to use bots to help you get things done, but is the first to approach the bot world on such a large scale.
Communications tool Slack has offered "intelligent" bots for some time allowing you to integrate other services into the chat windows.
Microsoft has said that the framework will be open and that bots will work with "conversation canvases" like Slack.