Microsoft is Developing a Bing Chatbot Similar to Cortana
Microsoft Bing will soon have an AI chatbot appear on search results to help users, according to a report from Windows Latest. The chatbot, aptly called “Chat,” appears to perform similarly to how Cortana behaved before Microsoft shifted that voice assistant toward enterprise purposes.
The Chat agent appears as an option next to the search button after a search is conducted on Bing. The AI will start talking about whatever subject the user mentions. The AI appears to operate with the conceit of pretending to be human, as the test by Windows Latest shows the bot claiming to own a computer. The bot also offers guides and recommendations, including info on new Windows updates. It largely appears to be a more conversational way of communicating the same information that the actual search results reveal. The interactions are reminiscent of how Google Assistant works with Google Search.
The chatbot appears to be the successor to the Bing InfoBot, first announced in 2017 before apparently fizzling before a launch. Chat, like the InfoBot, runs on the Microsoft Bot Framework direct assistance and has at least a limited amount of casual conversation to its capabilities. The Bing InfoBot was under evaluation then but didn’t seem to actually come out for general use. The revamped approach may be connected to some of Bing’s other AI projects like the Bing Image Bot and Bing Music Bot. The InfoBot was designed to pull information from websites to contribute to its chat, making it able to answer questions about what’s on a website without needing to navigate there, including Wikipedia and other informational pages.
“This means you can converse with an InfoBot to get answers to your questions from any web site,” Microsoft explained at the time. “Bing InfoBot will enable us to “botify” the web without site owners needing to do custom development, which will move search towards a more conversational model at scale.”
Though the chatbot is very clearly not labeled as part of Cortana, the chatbot does seem to be performing a similar function as a standard voice assistant, albeit just in text at the moment. Bing’s pursuits don’t seem to be related to Cortana beyond that point. Cortana is plenty present elsewhere in the Microsoft ecosystem, however. Three years after Microsoft launched the Cortana Skills Kit for Enterprise and began its shift from consumer to purely enterprise. Microsoft keeps adding new voice AI features to its mobile apps and has fully integrated Cortana into its Microsoft 365 products. Microsoft Outlook has also integrated Cortana, letting users set up and confirm meetings by voice, and is a key element of the Teams platform. Cortana hasn’t totally vanished from devices either, though it’s pretty much done with smart speakers. The voice assistant runs the new Microsoft Surface Hub and Lenovo ThinkSmart View touchscreen computers. Though specialized around using Teams, the devices share similarities with Microsoft’s latest laptops, which can perform as voice-controlled smart displays.