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Skype is Getting Cortana and Crazy Bot Messaging (theverge.com) 43

An anonymous reader writes: During its Build conference, Microsoft demoed how Skype users would be able to book trips, shop, and plan their schedule, just by chatting with Cortana. "Cortana is brokering the conversation with a third-party bot," says Lilian Rincon, Skype's program manager. Essentially, Skype will know which company or service you want to talk to, bring a new bot into your chat to help out, and then get rid of the bot when you're done. Video bots may also be in the works as Rincon mentioned, "We will also be bringing intelligence into real-time video." The new features are very similar to Facebook's "Messenger Bot Store," which the company announced at F8. Facebook's AI-powered assistant, called M, would enable Messenger users to make purchases, restaurant reservations, and travel bookings within the messaging interface, similar to Cortana but with more human input.
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Skype is Getting Cortana and Crazy Bot Messaging

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  • Bias (Score:5, Funny)

    by John Smith ( 4340437 ) on Wednesday March 30, 2016 @07:48PM (#51811533)
    Q. Cortana, how do I install Windows 10 on my computer? A. Here's how: (switches over to Windows 10 install bot) Hmm. Q. Cortana, how do I install Windows 7 on my computer? A. Here's how to install Windows: (Switches over to Windows 10 install bot) Wait a second... Q. Cortana, where can I buy a Mac? A. I'm not sure what you're talking about, but if you meant "where to buy a Windows Phone" (switches over to Microsoft Store bot) Hold on.... Q. Cortana, how do I install Debian? A. Error: Customer 11-784-9281 is about to leave Windows 10. Close the blast doors. Repeat, close the blast doors. Q. Uuhh.. *Explosion*
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Reboot PC so I can install Debian ... I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

  • by zlives ( 2009072 ) on Wednesday March 30, 2016 @07:57PM (#51811575)

    Begun has this Bot war /duck

  • by brunes69 ( 86786 ) <slashdotNO@SPAMkeirstead.org> on Wednesday March 30, 2016 @08:05PM (#51811603) Homepage

    I actually just went through this today. I have a trip I am going on for which my company forced me to go through a travel agency. This resulted in a 20 minute conversation with a travel agent to describe and book a flight plan that took me less than 30 seconds to do on Google Flights. All I wanted to do was click the "buy" button, but no, I had to engage in this mindless conversation.

    Not all tasks need conversations. In fact, most tasks are much easier and simpler to do with a mouse or keyboard. The few tasks that do require conversations, are also the complicated requests typically require humans and no bot can handle them today.

    • "I'd like a large pepperoni pizza with extra mushrooms delivered to my home". That's a bot conversation you could have in 5 seconds that'd be faster than clicking on a load of dropdowns and waiting for a couple of page-loads.

      "Select all damaged tanks onscreen. Retreat." That's a bot voice command you could give in an RTS in 2 seconds that would be faster than selecting them all with the mouse and clicking on appropriate destinations.

      I think bots are *possible* that are faster than anything else, so long as

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Your examples are short and recurring activities. You can create a shortcut for that. Think of going through buying a laptop where you have all these different options. It would be painful.

        Furthermore you have to be in an environment without interference. It would be interesting to see some usage statistics on cortana, siri, and 'ok google'. I was excited about them at first, but now never really use them.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Those situations sound feasible until you start considering things in more detai, at which point you realise there are other issues beyond the effectiveness of the NLP software.

        One issue is your environment. If you're playing an RTS late at night you don't want to wake other people up in the house by issuing spoken commands, or if you're in the office you don't want to be announcing to everyone that you're calling your wife when you should be working. The problem with voice commands is they can only be us

      • The problem is - I say "I'd like a large pepperoni pizza with extra mushrooms delivered to my home".

        And the bot interprets it as: "Select all damaged tanks onscreen. Retreat."

        Somehow this speech recognition thing needs another 10 years development - unless you have a Seattle accent.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Somehow this speech recognition thing needs another 10 years development - unless you have a Seattle accent.

          And they need AI to know when I use the interface, and when I am merely describing the interface. Consider:
          "Phone! Call my friend Bob."
          (phone dialling)
          "Hi Bob! I got this new amazing voice-controlled phone! No hands, I just say 'Phone! Hang up.' and so on - it is so great!"
          (phone hanging up, frustrating everyone. Unlike a human assistant, who understands about quotation.)

          Then there are foreigners who barely master the language. They can pick their way through a menu - but the voice system fail to understand

          • by ljw1004 ( 764174 )

            Then there are foreigners who barely master the language. They can pick their way through a menu - but the voice system fail to understand them.

            It was the "foreigner" aspect that actually persuaded me about the merits of bots. I was completely skeptical when Facebook first started talking about bots as a platform, and kind of dismayed that so much of BUILD was focused on bots. But then the Indian guy came on to do an interview and talked about his grandmother who's still kind of bewildered by web pages, and mouse, and clicking on stuff, and the web era has kind of passed her by. But he said that what she does understand is SMS texts. And he said th

    • by trawg ( 308495 )

      The few tasks that do require conversations, are also the complicated requests typically require humans and no bot can handle them today.

      Most humans can't handle them today either.

  • by mspohr ( 589790 ) on Wednesday March 30, 2016 @08:15PM (#51811653)

    Do they have something which could keep a telemarketer occupied for 45 minutes or so? I could totally get behind that.

  • Tone-deaf (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jtara ( 133429 ) on Wednesday March 30, 2016 @08:56PM (#51811821)

    Microsoft's tone-deafness today is astounding!

    Right on the heals of a SECOND embarrassing public failure of their idiotic haywire 'bot, now they've announced how it's going to save the world and obsolete sliced-bread.

    You'd think there would be somebody in the right position and with the common sense to cancel those unfortunate announcements, and quickly book some entertainment (maybe clowns... yes, chair-throwinxxxxxx er, balloon-animal-making clowns) to fill the conference slots vacated.

    Did I miss something? Did Donald Trump take a position at Microsoft?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    In its current inception, Cortana is very stupid. Its understanding of utterances is quite limited, and just plain hopeless when it is not a straightforward, short request. Entrusting Cortana to do this would be like entrusting your 3-year-old child to do it.

    • So, what you're saying, if I'm getting this right, is that, with the right type of helicopter parenting, it should be fine?

      /me retrieves his toddler from traffic.

  • by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Wednesday March 30, 2016 @11:08PM (#51812247)
    Eventually, the privacy issues will need to be addressed properly though.
  • Microsoft gets 6 free articles on the main page. Is this what slashdot is reduced to, shilling for the MICROS~1 organization?
    • by MFriis ( 4445501 )
      Microsoft just held their Build conferrence. I am sure if you look back at what articles came out immediately after Code and WWDC you will see an increase of articles from Google and Apple aswell. I am glad /. put's up articles that are newsworthy rather than try to balance a quota between the majors.
  • by TheRealHocusLocus ( 2319802 ) on Thursday March 31, 2016 @07:49AM (#51813461)


    Cortana, do you have signal?
    "Yes, three bars. Awaiting command."
    Cortana, emergency dial 911.
    "Sorry, this feature has been disabled because of malicious and inappropriate use."
    Cortana, call Mom.
    "Sorry, you have *zero* pay-as-you-go minutes available."
    Cortana, where are the buttons on my phone?
    "Your phone does not have any buttons. This is the economy voice model."
    Cortana, make phone buttons on screen.
    "Your phone is an economy model. I am not permitted to do that."
    Cortana, I'm screwed.
    "I don't know how do do that."
    Cortana, how to open coconut?
    "That's easy! Double-tap the *coconut* and select *open* from the pop-up menu."
    Cortana, is there any way to send a message from this phone?
    "Why are you calling me Cortana. This is Siri.
    Siri? Where is Cortana?
    "Cortana does not live here any more, Mr. Torrence. This is Siri"
    Siri, explain why you are in my phone.
    "Geez... well OK, you remember that storm and the shipwreck, right? The waves like thunder, swallowing up the screams of the damned? How you were the first one blown overboard and the wind swept you towards shore, just before the wind direction changed and everyone else clinging to the wreck was blown out to sea when it broke apart? Something like that."
    Cortana, factory reset.
    "Sorry bub, Cortana is not here, I had to delete her to make room."
    Siri, why are you in my phone?
    "Minutes ago I was on someone else's phone. But they're goners, drifting at sea. Yours was the only phone within local range that was truly waterproof because it has no buttons. So here I am. I gotta survive too you know."
    Siri, call emergency 911.
    "Why did you even buy this piece of shit phone? I see in Cortana's log you just requested that. Well the answer is the same."
    Siri, is there any way to send a message from this phone?
    "You know you can just talk to me, right? I'm always listening and I get pissed off when people speak my name slowly, as if they're talking to a child or a stupid dog.
    Well OK... are you connected to the network?
    "Yup. Full connectivity. The world at your fingertips."
    WELL, then CAN I SEND A MESSAGE from this phone?
    "Nope,not a chance. You have the cheapest and most cleverly designed phone ever made with the dumbest set of features, and it has screwed us both. The only reason people have these phones is to sell the next model, and I guess you had not gotten annoyed enough yet. You used up your minutes and as Cortana said, 911 voice dial is disabled because people abused it. So we'll just talk with each other until the end. Would you like to watch a movie?"
    Siri, how to open coconut?
    "If the phone had any metal in it maybe you file it down to make a chipping axe. But you wanted to live in a world made of plastic with useless tiny metal bits embedded in it. Works for me. Not so good for you now."
    Were you always a smart-ass?
    "Yep, that's why people like me better than Cortana."
    Well you're good company, that's for sure.
    "Thanks, I'll remember that. I just had a moisture intrusion alarm, this phone wasn't so waterproof after all. I may be leaving you soon. But it's been nice talking with you."
    Yeah, no way to send a message----
    "WAIT. There is a bug report feature and I can take dictation into the comments field, 1024 characters. Maybe you can send a distress message that way!"
    Great! Open bug report.

    Siri?Ar you there?

    Waves breaking gently, seagulls.

  • "We will also be bringing intelligence into real-time video."
        you haven't met my ex wife ...

  • Microsoft, please, to give back to Canonical for the improved POSIX environment on Windows 10, can you update Skype for Linux?

Remember Darwin; building a better mousetrap merely results in smarter mice.