Microsoft has added to the number of chat bots available for users of Skype, introducing automated AI assistants for vacation price comparison sites Skyscanner and Hipmunk, ticket store Stubhub, and programmable messaging service IFTTT. Also among the five assistants introduced this week is Spock Bot, which Microsoft says “provides information on the ways of Vulcan logic.”
The Skyscanner and Hipmunk apps will spit out flight and travel suggestions based on preferences like location and date, but it’s the IFTTT bot that might be the most useful, providing users with notifications from their connected home devices, social media services, or anything else they choose to set up. Users can call on bots in conversations with real humans, as the Skyscanner demonstration video shows, allowing them to see pertinent search results in the same window as their previous chat.
The new Skype bots join existing assistants for services like Bing and Getty Images as Microsoft continues to bet heavily on AI. The company showed off the work it had been putting into creating “conversation as a platform” to The Verge last month, with CEO Satya Nadella himself saying that Microsoft says it has the best AI “brain,” able to better understand the questions it’s asked and the world around it. But Microsoft not the only tech giant to roll out a series of supposedly intelligent chat bots. Facebook is host to more than 11,000 such assistants on its Messenger platform already, just four months after Mark Zuckerberg’s company opened its bot-creation platform up to outside developers.