On stage at this week’s Microsoft Build event, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that chatbots, which it sees as the next big thing, will have
“as profound an impact as previous shifts we’ve had.”
Nadella elaborates that this will put chatbots — which he calls “conversations as a platform” — in the same category as past paradigm shifts like the graphical user interface, the web browser and the iPhone-driven adoption of the touchscreen.
Companies including Facebook, Slack, and Microsoft have begun investing heavily in these so-called “conversations as a platform,” with the promise of making booking a flight or buying a new shirt as easy as sending a text message. It’s an important shift, as these interfaces have the potential to make computing accessible to non-technical users.
“It’s a simple concept, yet it’s very powerful in its impact. It is about taking the power of human language and applying it more pervasively to our computing,” Nadella says.
According to a recent Bloomberg Businessweek story, Nadella has made chatbots his first big initiative since taking over Microsoft two years ago. In many ways, it makes sense: As Nadella himself notes at Build, it combines Microsoft cutting-edge speech research with the power of its Azure cloud to make it all possible.
Microsoft has been playing with this a lot recently. In China, Microsoft’s Xioaice is a well-loved chatbot with 40 million users. But more recently, the Microsoft Tay chatbot made headlines in America and beyond for all the wrong reasons, after going rogue with terrible, racist tweets.
Nadella promises we’ll hear more about chatbots and conversations as a platform.
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