Three weeks after releasing previews of Skype bots for Android, iOS and Windows desktop, Microsoft has now come out with versions for Mac and the Web. Microsoft is just one of many tech companies working to rapidly advance the adoption of bot technology these days.
Ever since Facebook unveiled its bot ambitions at its F8 developer conference earlier this month, it seems that news about these intelligent interfaces is coming from every direction.
On Monday, for example, Telegram co-founder and CEO Pavel Durov announced his company would begin offering grants to developers of $25,000 and up -- total funding is $1 million -- to create fast and useful interfaces using Telegram's Bot API.
Microsoft, meanwhile, is billing its latest bots as "a new way to bring expertise, products, services and entertainment into your daily messaging on Skype."
Successor to Apps and Search?
Bots and chatbots have been described as the next technology to replace apps or even search functions like Google's. A fast-growing number of companies are adopting the use of bots to help them provide faster, more conversational and automated help and information to their users and customers.
Restaurant Brands International, for instance, plans to tap into Facebook's new Messenger platform to create bots enabling customers to order food at its Burger King and Tim Hortons franchises.
In the meantime, Microsoft's Skype is previewing a few bot personalities, including Murphy, which can find and create images to respond to questions that "can't be answered by words alone," and Summarize, a bot that can describe the gist of a Web page for users who don't have time to read it all themselves. The preview bots are currently available in the U.S., as well as Australia, Canada, England, India, Ireland, New Zealand and Singapore.
Some Concerns about Bot Potential
Microsoft is also inviting developers to start creating new bots for Skype and to make plans to participate in a Skype Bot platform hackathon in May. The platform, which includes a software developer kit, API and workflows, is available through the company's new Skype Bots Portal for developers.
"This is only the beginning of taking this exciting technology and together, we can shape what it looks like to shop, play a game, order food, schedule meetings, book trips, control your smart home and more," the Skype team said in a blog post late last month.
Another Microsoft bot experiment, however, remains on ice after an embarrassing public debut last month. The company had introduced a millennial chatbot named Tay on Twitter, but trolls quickly turned the young bot into a hateful racist. That experience prompted Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk to tweet on Monday, "Will be interesting to see what the meantime to Hitler is for these bots. Only took Microsoft's Tay a day."
Telegram's bot challenge to developers, meanwhile, is set to run through the end of this year, with the company awarding grant funding in several batches until December 31.
Image Credits: Screenshot of Skype Bot for Mac via Microsoft's Skype Blog. iMac image via Apple.