Microsoft is building an assistant bot that, at least on the surface, looks quite similar to the just-announced Google Assistant bot.
Called "Bing Concierge Bot," the coming productivity agent will be able to communicate over a variety of conversation platforms, including Skype, Messenger, SMS, WhatsApp and Telegram, according to a recent Microsoft job post seeking an engineer to join the team building the bot.
From the Applications and Services Group job post:
"In Bing Concierge Bot Our team we are building a highly intelligent productivity agent that communicates with the user over a conversation platform, such as Skype, Messenger, SMS, WhatsApp, Telegram, etc. The agent does what a human assistant would do: it runs errands on behalf of the user, by automatically completing tasks for the user. The users talk to the agent in natural language, and the agent responds in natural language to collect all the information; once ready, it automatically performs the task for the user by connecting to service providers. For example, the user might ask 'make me a reservation at an Italian place tonight', and the agent will respond with 'for how many people?'; after several such back-and-forth turns it will confirm and book the restaurant that the user picked."
Microsoft officials showed off previews of a number of single-purpose bots built using Microsoft's Bot Framework, which is currently available in preview form, at the company's Build conference in late March. Microsoft has begun populating its Bot Directory with a number of company-developed bots, like the Bing Image Bot, Caption Bot, Summarize bot and Bing Music Bot.
Earlier this week, Kik Interactive announced that there's now an official Kik channel available on Microsoft's Bot Connector. Kik is a messaging application that's widely used by teens and pre-teens.
"After a month of close collaboration between the Microsoft and Kik bot platform engineering teams, it is now possible for new and existing Bot Framework developers to have their bots work on Kik with minimal effort."
The same way that Google's search engine is powering Google Assistant, Bing is the secret sauce for Microsoft's new and coming bots.
The Bing team has helped develop a number of the cognitive services and application programming interfaces that Microsoft is making available to bot builders. Some of these include an academic knowledge programming interface; interactive structured data search; entity-linking service; recommendations; image and news search; and the Microsoft Translator service.
The Bing team also has been leading the charge on how to discern user intent. To do so, a service needs to understand domains like place, time and the like. (This is where Cortana has gotten a lot of its smarts.) Microsoft's "Satori" -- similar to Google's Knowledge Graph -- is what helps translate search queries into a database of entities and relationships between entities.
Because of its roots in the business world, Microsoft also has built up knowledge of business-related entities around areas like documents and meetings which will help with users' bot queries like "remind me to send my boss that document I worked on last night."
But the company also has been amassing more consumer/general-purpose entity knowledge via Bing and Cortana searches in areas like sports, politics, entertainment and more.
I've asked Microsoft for more about Bing Concierge Bot and will update this post if and when I hear back. I'm specifically interested as to whether the Bing Concierge Bot will be something that powers other Microsoft Bot Framework-powered bots, or if it will be something with which users interact directly.
Update: A Microsoft spokesperson said the company declined comment.