IBM, Slack partner on Watson-powered chatbots

To kick off their partnership, the companies are updating Slackbot with Watson Conversation.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

IBM and Slack on Wednesday announced they're partnering to add Watson's cognitive computing capabilities to chatbots and other conversational inferences to the Slack platform.

To kick off the new partnership, the two companies are updating Slackbot, Slack's customer service bot, with Watson Conversation. The integration should improve its accuracy and trouble-shooting efficiency. This marks the first time Slack, which just surpassed 4 million daily active users, has used artificial intelligence to power the bot.

"As an increasing number of functional teams -- from finance, customer support and HR, to recruiting, marketing and sales -- have integrated their workflows into Slack, the degree of leverage we can gain from enhanced cognitive capabilities becomes massive," Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield said in a statement.

Meanwhile, IBM is building its own Watson-enabled Slack chatbot to help enterprise teams identify and fix IT and network operational incidents. The bot will bring together communications and traditional cloud, IT and network operations tools all in one channel, so that users don't have to toggle back and forth between them. Thanks to Watson's machine learning technology, the bot should get better at responding to issues over time.

IBM and Slack will share what they learn from these efforts with developers and offer tools to help Slack developers tap into Watson. For instance, IBM will release a Botkit Watson middleware plugin that allows the Watson Conversation service to talk to Slack and other messaging channels.

Many of IBM's own teams are also tapping into Slack, the company said, including marketing, design, and engineering groups.

IBM also just announced that it's building its own Watson-powered collaboration tool.

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