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Microsoft Bets Big on AI, Chatbots

SEATTLE — Microsoft is staying the course on the future of computing, doubling down on its bets on artificial intelligence and chatbots at its Build conference here. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and executive vice president Harry Shum both took to the stage today (May 10) to detail the company's plan for an audience of developer and press.

Credit: Harman Kardon

(Image credit: Harman Kardon)

The theme of the day was making AI more accessible to both individuals and organizations, augmenting every facet of computing. The company claims that everything it makes will eventually utilize AI, including Windows, Office, Xbox and Bing. 

One of the most noteworthy announcements at the keynote involved upgrades to Cortana; After this week's announcement of the Harman Kardon Invoke speaker with Cortana on board, Microsoft showed of a new set of tools for developers to program for the assistant. The company says that more than 145 million people use Cortana, though it didn't specify who speaks to it and who types in it. The new tools may help Cortana take on Amazon's Echo speaker and AI, Alexa, which boasts more than 10,000 skills.

Additionally, Microsoft has teamed up with Intel and HP to work on reference platforms and hardware devices, respectively. No further details were given on potential Cortana hardware.

MORE: Invoke Speaker Is Microsoft's Answer to Amazon Echo

Last year, Microsoft focused heavily on bots at Build, and that continued with this year's conference. Microsoft is enhancing its Bot Framework to help developers offer Adaptive Cards, pieces of information that work among various applications and platforms, as well as the ability for bots to be used in more apps like Bing, Cortana and Skype for Business.

In a demo on stage, Microsoft's Laura Jones showed off how bots could be used in a meeting, including using a scheduling bot for follow ups and using an Adobe bot to bring up designs. With Cortana, those bot actions can be sent to a Windows PC for later review.

Microsoft also detailed its Windows Cognitive Services, a set of 29 AI capabilities developers will be able to incorporate into Windows 10 apps, including gesture recognition, video indexing, live translation and search.

Andrew E. Freedman

Andrew E. Freedman is an editor at Tom's Hardware focusing on laptops, desktops and gaming as well as keeping up with the latest news. He holds a M.S. in Journalism (Digital Media) from Columbia University. A lover of all things gaming and tech, his previous work has shown up in Kotaku, PCMag, Complex, Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag among others.