Microsoft is adding its Cortana virtual assistant to Skype, which means the booking of hotels and other travel (and other services) will become possible within the instant-messaging platform.
Starwood-owned Westin was the first hotel brand to participate by creating a bot that can integrate with Skype. The work of its developers, and the full Skype bots portal, was shown off today at Microsoft’s Build developer conference.
In a demonstration, the artificial intelligence software called Cortana scanned a user’s conversations and saw that a user was writing messages suggesting she needed to book a hotel.
The bot prompted the user to confirm the itinerary. Then it introduced the Westin hotel bot to display room types and to process the booking.
Cortana also scanned the hometowns of the user’s Skype contacts to suggest names of people who live at the destination who might be available to meet during the trip.
A Skype user has an option of opting in or out. A user who opts in can store their preferences with Cortana, such as the hotel brands he or she likes or has status with, the company said.
Today Microsoft threw open the doors to an open-source Bot Framework for third-party developers. Beginning in May, it will run bot hackathons in Palo Alto, and in other locations such as London and India.
The company also touted several tools that developers could use to build their own AI-based chat bots. Last month, it bought SwiftKey, a predictive typing app, for £174 million.
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