Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) is set to launch bots for its popular video chat and voice call application, Skype. The software giant, which has been pretty vocal about its interest in bots and artificial intelligence (AI),announced plans to introduce bots to various products at its annual Build conference in March.
Starting with Skype, the company plans to utilize bots for various communication platforms such as Outlook, LINE, and Slack. In a blog post, Skype announced the rollout of its bots in a preview edition for Mac and the application’s web version. If you’re wondering why the company isn’t paying any attention to mobile platforms and its own Windows operating system, perhaps WhatsApp voice calls have kept you a bit too occupied. These bots have been live on Skype’s Windows, iOS, and Android versions for weeks now.
Apart from the supporting platform expansion, Skype also announced a few tweaks and additions to its bot lineup. The expanded selection includes a bot called Murphy, who can search and create an image to answer a user’s question, if it cannot be explained in words. As the name suggests, Summarize presents you with an overview of a webpage, if you don’t have the time to go through all of its contents.
To get started with these bots on Skype for Mac, tap on the Contacts menu, and choose the option to “Add Bot.” You can then check out a list of bots, or search for a particular one that you have in mind. On the Web version, glide over to the left toolbar to select “Discover Bots” to view the list of all available bots. You can also visit each bot’s profile page, and click on the “Add Bot” button directly from the website.
The Skype preview version for Mac can be downloaded from Skype’s website. The web bots are currently available in the US, England, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, and India. The service has also initiated a developer program, to allow third-party programmers to build bots. Microsoft has emphasized that the bots are still in the Preview version, which means that you can expect to encounter glitches, bugs, and other issues that will be rectified later in the full rollout.
Skype has been experimenting with various bots for a while now, including a few from Bing that enable you to search the Internet for a range of things, from music to images and even news. A Getty Images bot enables you to view the company’s stock photography resources.
Last month, the AI-based teenage girl chatbot, Tay, made its way to Twitter, which resulted in some entertainment, if nothing else. Within 24 hours of the bot going live, the self-learning bot went from innocent to a Nazi-sympathizing, racist Donald Trump supporter. In Microsoft’s defense, the Tay saga was a result of pranks on the web, and had little to do with the company’s engineering. Bots like Tay can be utilized to their full potential by individual users, for communication platforms such as Skype and Outlook, instead of an open-to-all social network.
Microsoft isn’t the only company that has introduced bots to communication platforms. Facebook recently announced that third-party built chatbots will be available on Messenger soon, mainly for interaction between users and businesses. While the social media giant looks to push the business aspect, Microsoft primarily wants users to benefit from AI and task-bots.
Infusion of AI and bots into communication platforms is likely to have a significant impact on the future of AI technology. It will be interesting to see how bots can be effectively utilized to facilitate businesses and end users. If Tay’s nasty behavior has piqued your interest, watch this space for more updates on Murphy, Summarize, and others, as they join Microsoft’s communication platforms.