The inquisitive have asked Microsoft's artificial intelligent assistant Cortana 17 billion questions -- and of these, she has helped to facilitate 3.5 billion Web searches since the launch of Windows 10. Now the high-end audio manufacturer Harmon Kardon says it will integrate Cortana into its products.
Earlier this week Microsoft said it would open Cortana to new devices and developers within the Cortana Skills Kit and Devices Software Development Kit (SDK). The tools will allow developers to use existing Amazon Alexa skills to create Cortana skills.
Microsoft has been investing in artificial intelligence for more than 25 years and this week the vision of a developer network came to life with the announcement that Harman Kardon will integrate Microsoft's software into its hardware. In a YouTube video, Harman Kardon demonstrates how Cortana will work with its high-end audio equipment to carry out tasks ranging from searches to playing music.
Companies like Knowmail are applying AI to the problem of email overload. Capital One's using voice technology to let customers manage their money through natural language conversations. Expedia published a bot to Skype, and TalkLocal's allowing people to find local services.
Microsoft's vision to build systems with AI across agents and applications spans into consumer and business services. That platform includes 25 APIs called Cognitive Services that provide intelligence capabilities such as speech, language, knowledge and search.
Microsoft this week also introduced a new chatbot named Zo, built on the technology stack that powers Xiaoice and Rinna.
Zo used the social content of the Internet to have conversations with humans. She learns from human interactions to respond emotionally and intelligently, but she also has strong checks and balances in place to protect her from exploitation, according to Microsoft.
Microsoft's foray into chatbots began in May 2014 in China with Xiaoice, which now has more than 40 million users. "Zo has already held conversations with over 100,000 people in the U.S. To date, more than 5,000 users have had over an hour-long conversation with Zo, and she holds Microsoft’s longest continual chatbot conversation: 1,229 turns, lasting 9 hours and 53 minutes," per the company.