Microsoft Launches Bot Framework, Cognitive Services, and Skype Bots

A lot of interesting announcements have come out of the first two days of the Microsoft Build Conference which began on March 30th and will end on April 1st (although the post-build hackathon ends on Saturday, April 2nd). Included in the many announcements made by Microsoft at the conference were the launch of the Microsoft Bot Framework, the launch of Microsoft Cognitive Services, and the addition of Cortana and chatbots to Skype.

Microsoft has created a demo at that uses the Computer Vision API, Emotion API, and Bing Image API as well as the Bot Framework.

The Microsoft Bot Framework consists of a Bot Connector, Bot Builder SDKs, and a Bot Directory (Bot Directory is coming soon). The framework allows developers to build and connect intelligent bots that can interact with application users. Interactions can take place via text/SMS, Slack, Office 365 mail, and other services.

At the time of this writing, it appears that the Bot Builder SDKs are for building bots with Node.js and C#. According to the Bot Framework FAQ, it is possible to build a chatbot with the Microsoft Bot Framework without using the SDKs. This allows other languages, like Python for example, to be supported. However, the bot has to be capable of providing a REST Endpoint that can be called by the Bot Connector in order to avoid using the SDKs.

Microsoft also announced at the Build Conference the launch of Microsoft Cognitive Services (formerly Project Oxford), a suite of APIs that developers can use to build applications powered by algorithms that can perform computer vision, speech recognition, text analytics, recommendations, and other cognitive tasks. Microsoft has rebranded Project Oxford as Microsoft Cognitive Services and has added new capabilities such as Emotion, Language Understanding and Bing Search to many of the existing APIs.

Another announcement at the Microsoft Build Conference was the addition of Cortana and chatbots to Skype. Skype Bots allow developers to add new and engaging ways for users to interact with Skype applications. The Skype Bots are able to work together with Cortana, Microsoft’s voice-controlled intelligent assistant. With Cortana and Skype Bots working together, developers can build applications that are integrated with Skype and allow users to complete voice-activated tasks such as searching for information or managing a calendar without having to leave Skype.

The Microsoft Bot Framework, Microsoft Cognitive Services, and Skype Bots are all currently in preview. For more information about these new services, visit the Microsoft Bot Framework, Cognitive Services, and Skype Developer websites.

Be sure to read the next Application Development article: Microsoft Edge vs. Chrome vs. Firefox: What Should Matter to Users and Developers?