Skype Bots available in latest Windows 10 Build

Get ready, bots are coming

SkypeBots

Back in March, Microsoft announced they were bringing bots to Skype, in the latest Windows Insider built of Windows 10, they’re delivering. Bots are designed to automate user interaction with data, without the need for pesky humans in between. This means by chatting to a bot in Skype, could deliver answers instantly from a variety of connected services like Bing, Slack and Office 365.

As more developers leverage Microsoft’s bot framework, the number of services will continue to grow, however Facebook and Google have also announced bot platforms and will need to compete for developer attention and audience.

Right now in Windows 10 build 14393, Windows Insiders can fire up the Skype Preview app to find a new icon in the left-hand menu. The apps work like conversations and are are positioned in Skype to enable you to easily find answers to questions or media relating to conversation you have with friends and family. Right now, bots are not available for Skype for Business, however they’d be incredibly useful in a business context.

Some examples of the Bots available today include:

Bing Music

If you found yourself discussing a playlist with your friend on Skype, you could ask the bot for the lyrics to a song and in a few seconds, the bot returns the full lyrics to the song. The data is returned from the service LyicsFind.

Bing Images

The Bing images bot lets you fire requests at it like ‘show me funny cat pics’ or I want to see cute dogs and you’ll a few replies with links to relevant images. This is certainly a very different experience to hitting a Google or Bing image search, which returns tens of thousands, its more like asking a mate for a couple of examples of something, the problem is, you’re not exactly sure what rankings/filters they use to return these images. Also there’s currently no thumbnails which really makes the experience feel random and not particularly useful.

Getty Images

One of the world’s largest image sources, Getty Images enables users to find images by searching natural language queries like ‘I want to see beautiful sunsets on the beach’. You could also search ‘I need a photo that has a car with raindrops on the windscreen’.

Project Murphy

Already working with Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Kick and Slack, Project Murphy now lets Skype users ponder the tough questions in life and have a robot answer them with the intelligence of the internet. The response includes an image with your question embedded, ripe for sharing on social media.

Summarize 

This bot is definitely my favourite so far, it lets you write ‘Summarize {website}’ where {website} is just any URL that has an article you have not time to read. It gives you the cliff notes which is basically an executive summary on the fly, allowing you to speed read through masses of content.

ProjectMurphy

At the moment the queries are text only, but you can imagine Cortana voice integration isn’t too far way. If you’re a developer and want to start building your own bot for Skype are as follows..

  1. Build a bot using the C# SDK, Node.js SDK or Skype REST API
  2. Test it using the Bot Framework Emulator
  3. Deploy the bot to a cloud service, such as Microsoft Azure
  4. Register the bot with the Microsoft Bot Framework, which will automatically add Skype as a channel. When you first register a bot it will be in Preview, which means it can be added by up to 100 users using an add button or URL. To remove the limit you can easily publish it in Skype using the Microsoft Bot Framework.
  5. Add the bot to Skype and test

Interestingly, Microsoft advise developers should test Skype bots using the developer version of the Skype Web App until updated Skype apps for desktop and mobile are available at the end of July. This gives an idea of when we should expect regular users to get access to Skype bots and that’s with the anniversary update to Windows 10 that is due August 2nd.

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