Microsoft Supports Bash, Ushers in 'Conversations as a Platform' Era

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2016-03-30 Print this article Print
Microsoft Bash

Meanwhile, back to the conversational kick, Nadella showed improvements to Cortana and announced previews of new cloud services and toolkits designed to understand the world around us and create intelligent bots.

“As an industry, we are on the cusp of a new frontier that pairs the power of natural human language with advanced machine intelligence,” said Nadella said in a statement. “At Microsoft, we call this Conversations as a Platform, and it builds on and extends the power of the Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and Windows platforms to empower developers everywhere.”

Microsoft introduced cloud services that understand things based on analytics and natural language. The company also introduced interactive bots and a new Cortana Intelligence Suite.

Well, the Cortana Intelligence Suite, formerly known as the Cortana Analytics Suite, is based on Microsoft research into big data, machine learning, perception, analytics, natural language and intelligent bots, Nadella said. It is built on the Microsoft Azure cloud and enables developers to create intelligent solutions, including new apps that learn about the world and bots and agents that interact with people in personalized, intelligent ways.

Microsoft also previewed two new additions to the Cortana Intelligence Suite. The new Microsoft Cognitive Services is a collection of intelligence APIs that enables systems to see, hear, speak, understand and interpret users’ needs using natural methods of communication. And the new Microsoft Bot Framework enables developers to use any programming language to create intelligent bots that enable customers to chat using natural language on a wide variety of platforms including text/SMS, Office 365, Skype, Slack, the Web and more, the company demonstrated.

As Murphy suggested earlier, Microsoft software engineer Saqib Shaikh closed out the opening day Build keynote with a demonstration of his Seeing AI application he built using components and services such as those found in the Cortana Intelligence Suite. In a video, Shaikh described the technology as transformative and showed how his project can help people who are visually impaired or blind better understand who and what is around them. One example showed Shaikh in a restaurant where the app directed him where to place his phone to snap a picture of the menu so it could read it to him and he could decide what he wanted for lunch. In essence, the app helps blind people better navigate the world around them.

Microsoft also released a preview of the Skype Bot Platform, which includes the SDK, API and Workflows all in the new Skype Bot Portal. With this platform, developers can build bots that take advantage of Skype’s multiple forms of communication, including text, voice, video and 3-D interactive characters, Microsoft said in a statement. Customers can get started with Skype Bots by downloading the latest Skype apps for Windows, Android and iOS, the company said.

“With this overall effort Microsoft is clearly showcasing they intend to be a big part of intelligent systems development for the future,” Enderle said.  “They are aggressively moving with low cost capable offerings specifically targeted at developers.  You can almost see the specter of a far younger Steve Ballmer [formerly Microsoft CEO] at the show screaming ‘developers, developers, developers’ because this is the most focused I’ve seen Microsoft on this group in years.”


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