Chatbots will revolutionize how we experience computing, says Satya Nadella.
According to the Microsoft CEO, they will fundamentally change the user experience we have come to know since computers became a ubiquitous part of everyday life.
Presently, menus and toolbars define our user experience. They help us navigate our applications and make computing easier. The relative ease of use depends on the particular operating system or application. At the moment, Nadella explained, bots improve and support apps, but soon enough human language will be taught to computers and verbally interacting with computers will be "the new interface," Venture Beat reports.
"So pretty much everyone today who is building applications whether they be mobile apps or desktop apps or websites will build bots as the new interface where you have a human dialogue interface versus menus of the past," Nadella said at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto.
If you think the idea of intelligent, verbal robots facilitating our computing experience sounds like a cool idea, you are not the only one – and neither is Microsoft. Tech nerds and the people who invest in them are constantly waiting for the next computing trend, and chatbots have certainly captured people's imaginations, as well as their wallets.
Artificial intelligence, for all its sinister connotations, is experiencing a surge in popularity. At one point, when people thought of chatbots or "robots," they imagined refrigerators that could order more groceries or human-like metal beings around their house with a feather duster à la Rosie the Robot from The Jetsons.
The idea remains the same even if the visuals are markedly different. Now small business owners can hire virtual personal assistants – chatbot personal secretaries, if you will – who schedule appointments, book hotels, and more.
This is not the first instance in which the Microsoft CEO expressed his excitement about the future role of chatbots. Earlier this year, Nadella spoke at the Build conference in San Francisco. While there he boasted about Microsoft's advances in language processing and machine learning, the New York Times reported. The point of fascination was the ability of these chatbots to be fully responsive to people's everyday lives, most notably the fact that they can be set to recognize slang.
At the moment, these chatbots are more commonly being used in the world of commerce. An Uber founder created Operator, which serves as a robot concierge. Another chatbot called Assist allows people to buy concert tickets and make hotel reservations via text.
The chatbot receiving a lot of buzz recently is x.ai, the company that provides a virtual personal assistant named "Amy" or "Andrew" which helps schedule appointments. Users simply cc their chatbot on an email thread and ask the chatbot to make an appointment with the email recipient. Amy or Andrew then engage in the back and forth needed to make the appointment happen. According to a review in Business Insider, the chatbot assistant is rather helpful, and for those who are simply cc'd on the email, the impression is that "Amy" or "Andrew" is a human assistant (the email signature does say that the person is using an artificial intelligence scheduling system. The paid version allows users to modify the email signature).
While some are understandably hesitant to embrace artificial intelligence, it is already changing the way we shop, make appointments, and book trips. Microsoft recently announced a new bot framework and approximately 20,000 developers have already signed up for the Microsoft Bot Framework. For some time, Microsoft has suffered from its reputation as the "old farts" in the tech industry, but it has been making significant progress in chatbot technology.
"It's about taking the power of human language and applying it more pervasively to all of our computing," said Nadella. "That means we need to infuse into computers and computing intelligence about us and our context."
[Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images]