Microsoft followed up last week's anniversary of the Windows 10 launch with the release this week of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, complete with a new Skype Preview Windows application built specifically for the launch.
Along with the anniversary updates, the company also introduced five new Skype bots, which range from the frivolous to the helpful (I'll let you be the judge which is which).
A New Look for Skype Preview
Microsoft claims it rebuilt Skype from the ground up to provide deeper integration with Windows 10 aimed at giving users a more seamless experience.
The standard capabilities are all still accounted for in the Preview: person to person calls, video chats, group calls, file, video and photo sharing, and more. What this version adds are capabilities that smooth out the transitions between app and operating system, such as the ability to respond to notifications directly, without the need of opening the app.
A new toolbar offers a menu of traditional features as well as a new tab for Bots. Pressing on the tab gives users access to any currently available Skype bot.
Skype also gets a new, darker look in this version to match the Windows 10 interface.
The Preview comes pre-installed with the Windows 10 Anniversary update — no need for separate download.
New Bots to Play With
The five new bots for the Windows 10 experience include bots for vacation price comparison sites Skyscanner and Hipmunk, for ticket store Stubhub, and programmable messaging service IFTTT (if this then that).
Last but not least is a bot that puts users in contact with the second in command of the Starship Enterprise, allowing you to chat with Spock and learn the ways of Vulcan logic.
However, the best demonstration of how bots can help in the workplace comes from the IFTTT bot, which puts algorithmic capabilities in non-technical users hands. Users can choose from a list of existing formulas or design their own to trigger alerts, provoke an action, or otherwise automate what could be a time consuming task. IFTTT already helps people keep track of the multiple communication and social platforms they're juggling and the bot promises more of the same.
These five bots are but a small sample of those currently available and those to come from the Skype Platform. Microsoft claims over 30,000 developers have signed up to build bots on the platform, which will join the list of those on offer.
Skype and the New Machine Intelligence World
The release of the new Bots follows the release of a series of preview Skype Bots in March during its Build developer conference. The company upgraded the Microsoft Skype Bot framework in April with the intention of making it easier to develop Bots, and easier to use.
The upgrade brought the Skype Bot Platform and the Microsoft Bot Framework into one environment and enabled users to:
- Pull Bots into group conversations
- Use Bots to scan web pages and other documents and pull the information together on ‘Cards’
- Use natural language when making queries through Skype
The upgrades fed directly into the "new world" vision outlined by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella during the conference where he shared a future which paired “the power of natural human language with advanced machine intelligence.”
This, he said, would enable organizations and consumers to get more done “with the help of intelligent bots and digital personal assistants.”
Nadella was, to all intents and purposes, suggesting the creation of a Conversations-as-a-Platform (CaaP), where developers build bots based on Skype’s multiple forms of communication — including text, voice, video and 3-D interactive characters — and then share them through the Skype network.
“This is a world where language will become the new user interface, bots are the new apps, digital assistants are like meta apps or browsers, and intelligence will be infused throughout all interactions," wrote Corporate Vice President of Skype, Gurdeep Pall, in a blog post introducing the new Bots yesterday.