Microsoft Moves Cloud-Based Intelligence to the Fore

Microsoft has rebranded the Cortana Analytics Suite as Cortana Intelligence Suite and has announced new additions to it in preview – Microsoft Bot Framework and Microsoft Cognitive Services.

The Microsoft Bot Framework give developers new tools to build intelligent bots that are designed to chat with people using natural language on a wide variety of platforms including text/SMS, Office 365, Skype, Slack, the Web and more.

Cortana Intelligence Suite retains the existing services that cover all elements of Microsoft’s Azure-based analytics, visualization, data management, machine learning, information management, and, yes, intelligence offerings. The name also aligns slightly better in the Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM space, where the term “systems of intelligence” had referred to systems built using tools from the Suite to provide intelligent suggestions, guidance, forecasts, and natural language interaction.

Microsoft is also extending its bot vision to Skype with the release of the Skype Bot Platform. The move introduces bots that work in the context of a person’s interactions, whether personal (conversations with friends) or commercial (finding and booking a hotel in the area where you plan to visit).

In demos, Microsoft focused on the opportunities for new business-to-consumer bots. One demo showed off a Skype bot built by a hotel chain that could interface with the Cortana personal assistant on a Windows 10 phone in the context of a Skype. When Cortana understood a trip was being planned, the bot was contacted and Cortana worked as a travel agent of sorts, relaying the bot’s suggestions of a specific hotel and room options, then booking the room using the person’s guest club membership.

In another demo, Microsoft presenters quickly built out a bot to take orders at Domino’s Pizza that attempted to use natural language queries to parse out an order based on its current understanding. For the words and phrasing that the intelligence service could not understand, an employee taught the bot the correct meaning – like explaining that “my crib” describes the location an order was to be brought to – to improve the bot’s comprehension (and presumably to hasten the obsolescence of that employee’s job).

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