Last week, Microsoft suffered a pretty embarrassing PR hit upon the deployment of its AI chatbot Tay: just hours after going live, users had managed to train the bot to start spewing racist tirades. You might think that after an incident like that, Microsoft would be planning to shy away from AI-driven bot interactions at Build 2016, but that couldn’t be further from the case. Instead, CEO Satya Nadella has made he clear that he sees such bots as the future of computing, with natural human language taking the place of convoluted, often unintuitive UIs.
Nadella’s clear that it may take us several years before we get there, but the world he describes, where we get things done on or computers by simply talking with them, is already in its infancy thanks to services like Cortana. Digital assistants like Cortana would act as our gatekeepers to more special-purpose bots, putting us in touch with AIs custom-built for handling our specific needs.
Microsoft went on to demonstrate this conversation-driven approach to computing with the help of Skype, showing how users can begin interacting with Cortana on a call and use the service to pull up third-party bots, like one from a hotel company to assist with creating reservations.
This sort of interaction doesn’t have to be voice-and-text only, and Microsoft also revealed plans for real-time Skype video bots. Developers were encouraged to start packaging their services as interactive bots, as Microsoft shared its Cortana Intelligence Suite resources, including a framework for bot development.