Microsoft is testing developer tools that allow chatbots directly in Bing’s search results. Reports of the tests in Seattle and surrounding areas have been around for at least a month. The bots are powered by Skype.
The bots are currently limited to a handful of locations. Searching for a participating location reveals an option to ask the bot for help directly in the browser, as with El Gaucho (pictured above). The bots can answer basic queries about the location’s parking info, hours, and more via both buttons as well as natural language input.
The conference schedule for Build, the company’s upcoming developer conference, also features a session that mentions “you can add your custom bots to Bing,” The Verge pointed out. Sources familiar with the company told The Verge that Microsoft is ready to further expand the feature.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has articulated the company’s focus on bots. Previous attempts include Tay, an experimental Twitter conversation bot that quickly turned racist, Xiaoice, which the company calls “Cortana’s little sister,” and of course, Cortana, the company’s AI assistant.
Rolling chatbots out to Bing would be a huge expansion into one of the company’s largest consumer-facing products. Chatbots in search are an interesting idea as Microsoft continues to innovate and compete with Google, the dominant search engine. Both search engines have shifted to focus on delivering answers directly to search queries and adding something like chatbots could help that goal.