The ability to not only talk to your computer but to actually carry on a conversation with it is a common theme in many science fiction stories and franchise universes. In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, for example, the writers even poked fun at the idea. It was amusing then because of how far away from the technology we were in 1986. But the day when conversing with your computerized, intelligent, cloud-supported personal digital assistant is just a normal occurrence is upon us.
Microsoft is working feverishly to enhance the capabilities of Cortana to keep up with Google Home and Amazon Echo. There is a huge emerging market developing in the personal digital assistant space and none of the major players wants to be caught off guard and left behind. However, Microsoft's most important contribution to this area of research and development may be in what it calls "bots."
Tell it to the bot
For many, and that includes those in both consumer and business environments, the smartphone has become the standard communication device. Texting, chatting, and emailing on a smart mobile device is how people communicate about everything from the largest business contract to a pizza order. It only makes sense that the devices would start to understand the conversations.
And when I say "understand," I don't mean just recognize the words. I mean interpreting the context of the conversation. I mean knowing what the conversation is about and possibly even knowing where it will eventually lead. This level of understanding is achieved through the power of the intelligent cloud, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.
Microsoft is incorporating this bot technology into Windows 10 and Office 365. For example, someday soon users will be able to schedule meetings just by having a text conversation with the Outlook bot. Something like:
"Schedule a noon lunch meeting with the CEO at her favorite restaurant at her earliest available open date. Make the reservation for four. Send invites to her assistants."
Look at that conversation. You and I could handle the instructions with ease because we know who the CEO is, and we can research to find out her favorite restaurant, her schedule, and her assistants. The exciting part is that someday soon, so will your computer—or at least your bot-capable personal digital assistant will.
SEE: Internet of Things policy (Tech Pro Research)
Full disclosure: I am not a big fan of texting and chat applications, especially on my smartphone. But I recognize that for many, specifically those of a younger generation, texting and chatting are the preferred ways to communicate—with everyone and everything.
By applying the power of an ever-present intelligent cloud and leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning, Microsoft and other major information technology companies are developing systems that can read, interpret, and understand text conversations.
If Microsoft has any say in the matter, these bots are going to become powerful additions to its productivity arsenal of Office 365 and Windows 10. However, the beauty of bots is that they work regardless of what platform your smart mobile device depends on. And when you factor in the intelligent cloud powered by systems under the auspices of Azure, you can see why Microsoft feels this technology is so important to its future.
- Siri's legacy: How next-gen bots will change the way business gets done
- Satya Nadella: Software bots will be as big as mobile apps
- AI chatbots are overhyped and unimpressive, say developers
- The Future of Bots
Do you prefer to communicate via text? Is the potential of bots to understand your conversations something you are looking forward to? Share your thoughts and opinions with your peers at TechRepublic in the discussion thread below.
Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.