The future is going to be full of people talking to chatbots, says Microsoft, and it wants to help you build one. Today at the Build developer conference, the company unveiled what it calls the Microsoft Bot Framework — a set of tools that will let anyone create a bot that they (and their customers) can chat to, in the hope that these programs might replace web and app interfaces.
To demonstrate this system, Microsoft assembled a chatbot on stage for Domino's, showing how a conversational interface could replace the standard online ordering forms (e.g. selecting from a drop down menu to choose your pizza toppings). This is vision of chatbots we've heard before, but Microsoft wants to give the tools to build these bots to everyone.
Microsoft will help power these programs by providing what it calls "cognitive micro services" — little scoops of prepackaged intelligence that give bots the ability to understand natural language, for example, or analyze and label images. This build on services that Microsoft has previously offered developers, but it's upping its portfolio of APIs from five to 22. All will be free to use and be combined however developers want.
The Microsoft Bot Framework will also create chatbots that can integrate into a range of platforms, including Skype, Slack, Telegram, email, and the web. "We want every developer to be able to build bots as the new application for every business and every service," said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. "We want all developers to be able to infuse intelligence into their applications."
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