Bots to the Future

Bots to the Future

Microsoft CEO predicts that intelligent bots that can chitchat with us are the next big thing of the Future.

Imagine apps that gossip with you about Taylor Swift and Kim Kardashian.

Intelligence and the ability to engage in human conversation are some of the characteristics that will distinguish apps of the future, predicts Microsoft’s Chief Executive Officer.

Delivering his keynote address at the recent Microsoft Developer Day in Singapore, Mr Satya Nadella said that the ability to reason over large amounts of data and to infuse intelligence into applications and experiences will define what happens going forward.

It is, in fact, going to “define the success of the applications”. 


Mr Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, chatting with some developers in Singapore during his visit here.

And with that in mind, Microsoft is looking to democratise application development around machine learning to make it possible for developers to infuse intelligence into their projects. 

“The fact that you can have language understanding APIs (application programming interfaces), you can have speech understanding APIs, computer vision APIs, all available to you to be able to teach your computers how to listen, how to learn, how to understand human language, how to see and recognise objects, that is what we think is the future of application development,” said Mr Nadella.

He highlighted some new applications that were being built using the cognitive APIs contained within Azure. 

An example: A Singapore start-up called Overdrive that is working on Microsoft Azure to build out an intelligent IOT platform for cars. 

The platform will collect diagnostic information from the automobile, rendezvous the data in the cloud, schematise it, and expose it as separate developer APIs for other developers to build applications. 

Another example: JTC, which is building the infrastructure in the cloud for energy management and smart buildings. 

“If you want to be very cognizant about the environmental impact of energy, you've got to start taking advantage of these digital feedback loops like IoT so that you can conserve energy.”

Speak and Compute 

Mr Nadella also highlighted another “massive platform shift” with the emergence of conversations as a platform which involve three key actors – humans and their conversational canvases; personal digital assistants; and bots. 

It is a “simple yet big and powerful idea”, he said. 

“What if we can take the most innate capability that we all humans have, which is understanding of human language, and brought that to all computers and computing around us?”


Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella: What if we can take the most innate capability that we all humans have, which is understanding of human language, and brought that to all computers and computing around us?

The idea is that all computers will understand and respond to human language whether it is in the form of speech or text, instead of users having to navigate icons on the screen. 

“What if all we had to do was to speak and the right application with the right context just come to us to get things done?”

The human actors on this platform will participate through conversational canvases the likes of Skype, LINE, WhatsApp or Facebook. 

The ecosystem will be an open one, and there is room for many more types of conversational canvases where people will be able to speak or text interchangeably. Within these canvases, there will be two other types of special actors – personal digital assistants and bots. 

Personal digital assistants such as Microsoft’s Cortana will have the ability to learn about the user, the organisation and the world, and bring all that the knowledge to bear to help the user with his or her tasks. 

Bots are conversational agents which will have a deep understanding of human dialogue and are able to engage in in turn-taking and other mores of human conversation. 

And they will be ubiquitous, said Mr Nadella. 

In line with this vision of the future, Microsoft is building out a Bot Framework to help developers take advantage of intelligence on Azure to teach applications and bots human language and then automate and build experiences that can be made available on all the conversational canvases. 

“Every business is going to have a bot. Every place where you build an application, a mobile app or a website in the past is going to have a bot interface. Every business process, marketing, sales, customer service are going to have bots.” 

Photos courtesy of Microsoft Singapore.


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