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Are smart bots the way forward? Microsoft says yes

You’ve already dealt with auto-replies and robotic phone calls, but Microsoft still thinks that automation has a key role to play in your interactions with businesses or consumers.

Instead of more automatic email replies however, the firm is hedging its bets on smart bots to do the trick.

At its BUILD 2016 developer conference this week, the company showed off chat bots, which allow users to quickly accomplish actions.

It’s not the first time that we’ve seen these though, as the likes of Google Talk, MSN Messenger and other IM platforms dipped their toes into bot waters almost a decade ago.

Even more recently, we’ve seen Facebook Messenger introduce a flight bot of sorts and murmurings of Google working on a chatbot messaging service.

Heck, even this seemingly ancient listing of chat bots over the years seems rather impressive — so what makes Microsoft’s effort so different?

Microsoft goes all-in

The Redmond firm is among the first to publicly steam ahead with advanced chat bots of this nature though.

Microsoft promises that their bots will have ever-evolving natural language processing, as well as access to your Cortana data.

One of the most prominent chat bots shown off at BUILD was a bot for a Westin hotel in Dublin.

By simply asking the bot to book a room, it surfaces options for you. From here, you can select a room and you’re good to go.

Because it has access to your Cortana data though, the bot is able to see whether you have friends in or near Dublin suggesting a meetup with them and a pre-filled message.

Another bot demonstrated at the conference allowed a developer to simply order a pizza via a Domino’s bot.

So it’s smart — is that it?

Sure, a bot that understands speech and makes proactive decisions is rather fascinating, but what’s the point of it all if nobody comes to the party?

It’s for that reason that Microsoft is opening up the bots to developers in the form of its open-source Bot Framework, even hosting its Bot Builder SDK on GitHub.

And no matter where you or your customers are, Microsoft is taking quite the platform-agnostic approach. Aside from the company’s own Skype platform, it’s also opened up bots to text messages, Telegram and Slack.

Bots are by no means anything new, but between Facebook, Google and Microsoft’s efforts, it definitely seems like the new “in” thing.

Author | Hadlee Simons

Hadlee Simons
Terrible puns make Hadlee Simons difficult to work with, but he brings almost seven years of tech journalism experience to the table. When he's not at work or watching motorsport, he's in the foetal position on a jiu jitsu mat. More