acquiring conversational AI and bot development software vendor XOXCO Inc. for an undisclosed amount. Microsoft announced its acquisition plans on November 14, the same day it is going public with a number of other AI product and service announcements. ZDNet: Black Friday 2018 deals: Business Bargain Hunter's top picks | Cyber Monday 2018 deals: Business Bargain Hunter's top picks Austin, Texas-based XOXCO was founded in 2008. Since 2013, the company has been working on conversational AI.
Among its products are
Howdy.ai, which Microsoft describes as "the first commercially available bot for Slack that helps schedule meetings." Howdy assists with the creation of custom bots, including bots for work chat, bots for customer support and bots for marketing. XOXCO also sells Botkit, a collection of development tools for those working on GitHub. Microsoft has partnered with XOXCO for a number of years.
Microsoft isn't saying how it will integrate XOXCO into the rest of the company or what it plans to do with Howdy on Slack. However, announcement of the XOXCO acquisition was made by Lili Cheng, who is the Corporate Vice President of Conversational AI at Microsoft -- and who recently
moved from the Research and AI group at the company to the Devices and Experiences team. CNET: Black Friday 2018: The best deals on sale right now | The best Black Friday deals of 2018: The Cheapskate's picks | Black Friday 2018 Amazon deals now available
During the last six months, Microsoft has bought a number of AI development companies, including
conversational AI-focused Semantic Machines in May; reinforcement learning and simulation vendor Bonsai in July; and deep learning and AI model specialist Lobe in September.Microsoft has been working on various conversational AI projects over the last few years.
On the bot front, it launched (and closed down) its
Tay.ai bot, and continues to work on other AI bots including Xiaoice, Ruuh, Rinna and Zo.ai. Microsoft has been promoting the f ull-duplex chat capabilities of Xiaoice this year. Microsoft is working to reposition Cortana, its personal digital assistant, as more of a productivity aide than a standalone assistant.
Microsoft officials continue to bet on the idea that natural language will become the new user interface at some point.
TechRepublic: Black Friday 2018: Best deals for professionals | Adobe Creative Cloud gets 25% discount for Black Friday | A guide to tech and non-tech holiday gifts to buy online
In other conversational-AI news, Microsoft is releasing suggested guidelines which are designed to help customers think about
ways to develop bots and other conversational AI tools responsibly. The guidelines were derived from Microsoft's own experiences developing tools such as Cortana and Zo and cover topics including designing bots related to employment, finances, physical and mental well-being, along with other sensitive uses.
Microsoft also is
moving a number of its translation technologies out of its labs and into commercial products, officials said this week. The company is making available a preview in Azure Cognitive Services a neural text-to-speech synthesis system that generates digital voices from text. "The technology can be used to make interactions with chatbots and virtual assistants more natural and engaging, convert digital texts such as e-books into audiobooks and enhance in-car navigation," according to Microsoft's blog post.
Best gifts for co-workers under $50 on Amazon
Best Black Friday 2018 deals:
Amazon Seven Days of Black Friday Deals: All-time lows on office devices Amazon Black Friday 2018 deals: See early sales on Echo, Fire HD Best Buy Black Friday 2018 deals: Deep discounts on Apple Mac, Microsoft Surface Target Black Friday 2018 deals: $250 iPad mini 4, $120 Chromebook Walmart Black Friday 2018 deals: $99 Chromebook, $89 Windows 2-in-1 Dell Black Friday 2018 deals: $120 Inspiron laptop, $500 gaming desktop Newegg Black Friday 2018 deals: $50 off Moto G6, $70 off Nest thermostat Office Depot Black Friday 2018 deals: $300 off Lenovo Flex, $129 HP Chromebook eBay Black Friday 2018 deals: See early sales on Galaxy Watch, Chromecast Lenovo Black Friday 2018 deals: ThinkPad laptops and more Microsoft Store Black Friday 2018 deals: Ad showcases Surface, laptop deals Windows laptops Black Friday deals: Dell, HP, Lenovo Chromebook Black Friday 2018 deals: Dell, Google, HP Best tablet Black Friday deals: Apple iPad, Amazon Fire Black Friday 2018 iPhone deals: $400 iPhone X gift card, BOGO iPhone XR Black Friday 2018 smartphone deals: OnePlus 6T, LG G7