Cloud

Microsoft's Azure Bot Service could bring conversational AI to more developers

And Microsoft's Language Understanding helps firms build custom language interactions for any application.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • Microsoft's Azure Bot Service and Language Understanding, which help developers build chatbots, are now generally available.
  • Microsoft continues to make investments in its AI platform, focusing on infrastructure, high-level services, and frontline tools.

Microsoft brought both its Azure Bot Service and Microsoft Cognitive Services Language Understanding (LUIS) into general availability on Thursday, giving developers new ways to create natural language interfaces and chatbots in the Azure cloud.

Announced via a blog post, the two tools will help further Microsoft's mission of bringing "conversational AI tools and capabilities to every developer and every organization on the planet, and help businesses augment human ingenuity in unique and differentiated ways," according to Lili Cheng, Microsoft's corporate vice president of AI, who authored the post.

The Azure Bot Service was originally released in preview back in November 2016, as reported by our sister site ZDNet. The service itself is focused on creating "conversational interfaces on multiple channels," the post said. Powered by Azure serverless functions and the Microsoft Bot Framework, developers can use the service to build bots on SMS, Slack, Facebook Messenger, Microsoft Teams, and more.

SEE: IT leader's guide to the future of artificial intelligence (Tech Pro Research)

As part of its general availability, the Azure Bot Service was also expanded into additional regions. In the post, Cheng also noted the availability of premium channels that could help boost communication efforts and add new levels of customizability.

LUIS, on the other hand, is Microsoft's big effort in creating a framework for developing natural language interfaces for a variety of applications. LUIS can work in a chatbot context, but it isn't limited to that expression, the post noted.

LUIS is part of Microsoft Cognitive Services, a collection of APIs focused entirely on creating natural interactions between human and computer systems. It also works with the Bing Speech API and Microsoft Bot Framework, the post noted.

As part of the Thursday announcement, LUIS also received an upgraded UI and expanded regional availability. It now has up to 500 intents and 100 entities available, further broadening the kinds of experiences that developers can create with it, according to the post.

Microsoft's AI efforts have ramped up recently, with many of its machine learning and similar products being delivered through Azure. The firm also unveiled a new AI School that aims to more quickly get developers and other tech professionals up to date with those technologies.

Also see

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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