Despite the company facing criticism after its twitter-inspired PR stunt Tay backfired last week, the company has pushed forward within the artificial intelligence space, updating its Cortana Intelligence Suite and releasing its Skype Bot Platform.
“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 Satya Nadella, CEO at Microsoft, at the Build 2016 event. “At Microsoft, we call this Conversation-as-a-Platform, and it builds on and extends the power of the Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and Windows platforms to empower developers everywhere.”
The Cortana Intelligence Suite, formerly known as Cortana Analytics Suite, is built on the company’s on-going research into big data, machine learning, perception, analytics and intelligent bots. The offering allows developers to build apps and bots which interact with customers in a personalized way, but also react to real-world developments in real-time.
Microsoft also announced two new additions to the suite, Microsoft Cognitive Services, formerly known as Project Oxford and the Microsoft Bot Framework, both of which are still in preview.
The first, Microsoft Cognitive Services, has 22 APIs available for developers including emotion detection, speech analysis and Custom Recognition Intelligent Service. The face application programming interface made headlines last year, as the results of an app which estimated user ages was highly varied.
At the time, the team highlighted “the age and gender-recognition features are labelled as experimental features” and also said that despite the mistakes the app made, the fact that it trended on twitter meant that the volumes of data collected would aid the company in refining the technology over time.
The second, Microsoft Bot Framework, can be used in any programming language, enabling developers to build intelligent bots which can converse with customers in a variety of platforms including text/SMS, Office 365, and the web. The bots can also connect to social channels such as Twitter and Slack. The company claims that the bots can be utilized in a number of different complex scenarios though only simple ones, such as ordering a pizza or booking a hotel room, have been demoed so far.
The company also announced the launch of its Skype Bot Platform, enables developers to build bots which can interact with customers through Skype’s multiple forms of communication, including text, voice, video and 3-D interactive characters. The preview bots are very simple and limited for the moment, however once the bots are combined with the Cortana Intelligence Suite there could be potential for the bots to appear more human.
While it is early days for the Microsoft AI platforms, the team are riding the waves of both positive and negative headlines, seemingly leading the industry in the AI space. The company’s competitors are also pushing hard in the AI world, though the weight behind the announcements this week could imply that Microsoft are investing in a more serious manner than others in the industry.