Build 2019: Microsoft wants to help commercial enterprise customers construct custom designed virtual assistants

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Last 12 months at its Build developer conference, Microsoft gave pretty a chunk of time on Day 1 to a conceptual demo approximately conferences of the destiny. In that demo, futuristic Cortana-enabled conferencing talents figured heavily as did Cortana integration with Teams, Outlook and Windows. This year at Build, a greater commercial enterprise-first Cortana plus numerous bot and virtual assistant services additionally appears to be on the time table.
Microsoft has been honing its “communique as a carrier”/bot pitch for the reason that at least 2016. A short take a look at this 12 months published Build 2019 periods indicates that Cortana isn’t always definitely out of the picture, despite its falling some distance at the back of Alexa and Google Assistant in phrases of usage and mindshare. At the same time, Microsoft looks poised to continue to push its voice-first Virtual Assistant generation brought last Fall, which permits agencies to construct their personal, personalized virtual assistants.
Microsoft has been operating to reposition Cortana from a standalone digital assistant to extra of a virtual help aide since final Build. At Build this yr, Microsoft plans to speak up the Cortana Skills Kit for Enterprise which the organization introduced last year. The sorts of talents that agencies can use to increase line-of-commercial enterprise-precise scenarios include filing/recalling provider tickets, checking excursion balances, etc. With the aid of voice, in keeping with this 12 months Enterprise Skills Kit session description.
In preserving with Cortana’s greater enterprise-first emphasis, there is also a Build 2019 consultation focused on the usage of the Cortana software program improvement kit in conjunction with Azure IoT and the Cortana Bluetooth spec to”carry ambient sensible help to first-line people.” (The session description on Microsoft’s site for this specific one is inaccurate, so I’m not positive what the presenters are planning mainly.)
As became obtrusive at CES this year, Microsoft is calling at its Virtual Assistant Solution Accelerator, as opposed to Cortana, as the primary manner it hopes to get extra of its clients to use voice enter with its services and products. Microsoft brought the Virtual Assistant Accelerator in preview shape in November 2018. Using the Virtual Assistant Accelerator, clients can change the call, voice, and character of their assistants and use a starter set of conversational capabilities.
The Virtual Assistant Accelerator consists of a few out-of-the-container productivity competencies, along with Calendar, Email, and To-Do. These capabilities are included with the Microsoft Graph programming interface, which means they hook up with Office 365 and Outlook.Com. Microsoft also has promised to feature guide for Google APIs to these talents “soon.” These abilities will permit users to do things like move meetings while they’re walking late; upload gadgets to their venture lists from the car; requesting late checkout and room provider in hospitality settings; find to be had meeting rooms, and discover humans with particular capabilities.
At Build this 12 months, Microsoft is promising extra demos and details about its Virtual Assistant generation. These kinds of virtual assistants may be built the usage of Microsoft’s Conversational AI cognitive offerings for speech reputation, text-to-speech, language know-how, and the Microsoft Bot Framework.
In one consultation, Microsoft officials say they will cover “reference hardware” and speak to out “microphone arrays” (possibly like this tool tested at Build last yr?).
“We will highlight new abilities together with new non-developer Conversational Design tooling and Language Generation,” that equal session guarantees.
Through its Dynamics 365 product own family, Microsoft also is constructing its own Virtual Agent software program-as-a-carrier imparting which is supposed to permit users to layout and monitor custom bots without needing developers or AI professionals. A Bot Designer constructed using ASP.NET Core that is deployed in Azure seems to be key to that carrier.
Cognitive offerings/competencies — that are Microsoft programming interfaces which developers can upload to their personal applications and offerings to imbue them with “AI” capability — are going to be massive at Build 2019 and vital to Microsoft’s “conversational AI” message. In addition to some of the aforementioned cognitive services, Microsoft has a session devoted to a new service known as “Personalizer” which makes use of reinforcement getting to know to understand customers’ conduct. (To me, this new Personalizer looks like it may be a rebrand of the “Project Custom Decision” cognitive service which Microsoft currently offers on an experimental basis.)
I’ll be interested to look if Microsoft affords an update at Build 2019 next week on what’s occurring with the Cortana-Alexa integration which officers first proved publicly at Build 2018. Microsoft and Amazon began public checking out of that integration in August 2018.

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