Microsoft is revealing a big upgrade for its Bing chatbot today that adds image and video answers, restaurant bookings, chat history, and some smarter Microsoft Edge integration. These new features also coincide with Microsoft making Bing Chat available for anyone to try, moving from private to public preview.
Perhaps the biggest addition is a new Actions feature in Bing Chat and Edge. You’ll now be able to use Microsoft’s Bing AI to complete tasks without having to navigate back and forth between sites. So if a search result recommends a restaurant, it can then find a reservation time that works for you and help you book it all in the chat interface.
This also works through Edge, so if you’re searching for movies, you can just ask Bing AI to play it for you, and it will automatically select the correct service and open the site to start playing the movie. Microsoft hasn’t listed all the partners that it’s working with for Bing and Edge Actions, but the company has demonstrated OpenTable for restaurant bookings and Apple TV for movie searches, so it’s safe to say those will be supported at launch in a few weeks.
Next up is image and video search results right inside Bing Chat. “We’re introducing richer, more visual answers including charts and graphs and updated formatting of answers, helping you find the information you seek more easily,” says Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft’s head of consumer marketing. You’ll soon be able to search in Bing Chat and ask for photos or videos of objects, animals, places, and much more. Microsoft is also expanding its Bing Image Creator to more than 100 languages, so you can easily use Bing Chat to create images.
Microsoft is also adding a highly requested feature to Bing Chat: history. This new chat history will allow you to pick up chatbot conversations across devices and even use Bing Chat as a research tool. Microsoft is also planning to add export and share features into Bing Chat so you can share the contents of a conversation on Twitter or even bring it into a Word document.
Where chat history gets really interesting is inside Microsoft Edge. If you open a link from a Bing Chat answer in Edge, it will automatically move that chat into a sidebar so you can keep asking questions while you browse the site. Microsoft is also experimenting with personalizing these chat sessions by bringing in context from previous chat history into new conversations.
The Edge compose feature in the sidebar is also getting better tone options for generating text, with Edge mobile also soon supporting page context so you can ask questions in Bing Chat about the page you’re on, much like the sidebar in the desktop version.
To top off a round of features, Microsoft is also opening up Bing Chat to third parties with plug-in support. Much like most of these new features, it’s not clear exactly when plug-in support will be available, but Microsoft says it’s working with OpenTable for its Bing Actions reservations feature, Wolfram Alpha for visualizations, and OpenAI to let developers plug into Bing Chat.
“We believe this is a game-changer in the reinvention of search and to advance opportunities for developers in search,” says Mehdi. “We look forward to sharing more details at Microsoft Build later this month.”
All of Microsoft’s new Bing announcements come just a week before Google’s annual I/O developer conference. Google launched its Bard chatbot in early access in late March and added code and functions support last month. Google is scrambling to answer the threat of Bing and ChatGPT, and we’re now expecting to hear more about Google’s AI efforts in search next week.