Microsoft Azure Bot Service Opens To Developers

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Its good to talk. Redmond to deliver conversational AI to more developers as its Azure Bot Service is opened up

Microsoft continues to ramp up its artificial intelligence (AI) push after it announced the general availability of Azure Bot Service and language understanding for developers.

The idea is to enable developers to build better conversational bots, in an effort to make human and computer interactions more natural.

Microsoft is heavily backing AI. This was evidenced in the summer after it demonstrated AI’s potential when a Microsoft AI system achieved the perfect score of 999,990 in retro arcade game Ms Pac-Man.

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AI Apps

And now Microsoft wants to empower the developer community to bring more AI tools to market. To this end it has announced the general availability of Microsoft Azure Bot Service and Microsoft Cognitive Services Language Understanding (LUIS).

“Azure Bot Service enables developers to create conversational interfaces on multiple channels while Language Understanding (LUIS) helps developers create customised natural interactions on any platform for any type of application, including bots,” explained Lili Cheng, head of Microsoft’s artificial intelligence and research group.

“Making these two services generally available on Azure simultaneously extends the capabilities of developers to build custom models that can naturally interpret the intentions of people conversing with bots.”

Last month Microsoft had released tools to “infuse AI into new and existing applications quickly and easily with updates to Azure Machine Learning (AML) including Azure IoT Edge integration, as well as new Visual Studio Tools for AI.”

“With the general availability of Azure Bot Service and Language Understanding, we’re also introducing new capabilities to help developers achieve more,” Cheng wrote.

Azure Bot Service is now available in more regions and Language Understanding (LUIS) now has an updated user interface.

This LUIS has also been expanded up to 500 intents and 100 entities, so developers can create more conversational experiences for their apps.

And Microsoft said that language understanding is part of Microsoft Cognitive Services, a “collection of intelligent APIs that enables systems to see, hear, speak, understand and interpret our needs using natural methods of communication.”

Redmond has customised a number of these Cognitive Services to allow developers to use their own data with algorithms for specific needs.

Tricky Start

Microsoft has had mixed results with AI so far. Its machine learning powered virtual assistant Cortana has found relative success and is being increasingly embedded across Redmond’s software portfolio, but its usage has been hampered by Microsoft’s retreat from the smartphone market.

Earlier this week it announced it was embedding AI into Bing, in an effort to help that search engine return more accurate answers. And Microsoft also created a Twitter chatbot called Tay designed to mimic the speech patterns of a 19-year-old American girl.

However Tay was quickly canned after it started spouting offensive and racist tweets derived from public data on Twitter, a place not know for the most logical and polite material.

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