Microsoft kicked off its annual developer conference yesterday, Build 2016, and the company made a number of announcements around artificial intelligence, digital assistants, bots, and “conversation as a platform.” Indeed, Microsoft will soon integrate its Cortana digital assistant into Skype, but Skype itself is turning into a platform as the latest Skype clients on Windows, iOS, and Android are now welcoming bots.
Skype bots are currently in preview and only available in Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, India, New Zealand, Singapore, and US. Right now, you can only chat with the Bing Music, Bing News and Bing Images bots. If you want to chat with them, you have first to add them into your contact list: when you will try to add new contacts on your Skype app, you will now see 2 categories, “People” and “Bots”.
As these bots are currently in preview, you cannot have real conversations with them right now. These bots work more like a limited search engine, and they will respond to your search queries if you use specific keywords. For example, try to say the title of a song to the Bing Music bot, and the bot will bring you up a link to a YouTube video. The Bing News bot will give you recent articles which titles include the keywords you said.
If you think that Skype bots are not very useful right now, just wait for Skype Video bots who are going to give Skype users the opportunity to interact with characters and businesses via a virtual personality through Skype video. But right now, Skype is inviting developers to join its Skype developer program to start building Bots right away, and the team will also hold a May hackathon to invite everyone to create innovative bots on the Skype Bot platform. Please tell us in the comments if you think Skype bots can turn the messaging app into a full-featured platform.
To access the bots, you’ll need to make sure you’re on the latest Skype clients. For Windows PCs, open Skype and go to Help > Check for updates. In iOS and Android, go to the relevant app store and hit update or download from a link below.