At Build last year (2018) I had some free time and dropped into a chatbot presentation. I’ll be honest, I didn’t really care much about chatbots. I use them a bit in slack, but honestly, they aren’t overly helpful. “/giphy nick cage” will find a gif for me, but it’s usually faster to Google things, particularly when I’m at a keyboard. Skype and facebook bots, in general, have always felt more like a choose your own adventure book than typing to an actual person and, again, there are usually faster UIs for finding information like that. So why is Microsoft’s service for building chatbot’s so compelling to me now? I’ll give it to you with one word:
This year I got 2 more Echo devices for my home, mostly for music, but also for getting calendar, weather, movie, and other info from anywhere in the main part of my house. I order stuff from Amazon, add things to my Wunderlist for shopping out later, and even call my wife sometimes from it. I’ve been a long-time fan of Siri on iOS and use it a ton to open things and get around the phone – and Google Assistant is even better on Android. I’ve also started using Cortana more to open things on my PC recently. All of this is to say that voice user experiences are becoming huge.
With Azure Bot Service, one of the publishing targets is Cortana, and it’s fairly easy to wire up an Alexa skill to it. On the back-end, you just write some C# logic to service conversations and intents from the user, can hook it to some AI with Azure Cognitive Services, and you have the brains of a chatbot. That chatbot can then be published or really easily wired to any of the popular voice assistants that support skills. It’s like Cordova for text and voice assistants! It’s also really easy to get started.
Azure bot service: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/bot-service/?&WT.srch=1&WT.mc_id=AID631184_SEM_20TbeIFB&lnkd=Google_Azure_Brand&gclid=Cj0KCQiAh_DTBRCTARIsABlT9MYt2BQIIghcs63YL62vuZTC0w5g6o5xcRWiI7aRWsX0BhtUqjXTCh8aAgsyEALw_wcB