New Channels, New Docs, New Ways to Make Great Bots
On May 10th, Microsoft announced numerous updates to the Bot Framework designed to help developers make great conversationalists.
1 New Channels
Three new channels are available today, increasing your bot’s reach to even more of the Microsoft audience, as well as people engaged in many of the world’s most popular messaging experiences.
The Cortana channel enables you to extend Cortana by authoring Skills. Visit the Cortana developer portal to learn how to add your skills to Cortana.
The Bing channel allows users to discover and chat with your bot directly in the Bing search result page. Bing bots are authored using the Bot Framework and connected via the Bing channel. The Bing Bot development experience allows bot developers to publish their bots to Bing, where they appear in the Bing Bots Rich Answer. Users will also be able to chat with the bot on Bing.com! You can see an example right here with Microsoft’s Local Business Bot. Bots in the Bing results pages leverage the new Skype Web Control.
Skype for Business is now integrated with the Bot Framework, allowing your bots to be part of conversations on the Skype for Business canvas. Visit the Skype for Business Bot Framework overview page to learn how to connect your bots to Skype for Business.
2 Adaptive Cards
Adaptive Cards provide developers an easier way to compose user experiences that span devices and modalities. A card is a piece of UI defined by the developer and rendered by the host application to display to the user. An Adaptive Card is made of composable visual building blocks described in JSON that automatically automatically adapt to the host’s branding, UX, theme, layout and modality.
3 Bot Payments
Build a payment enabled bot and streamline the checkout process. The Payment Request API now provides fast, easy checkout experience within the Bot Framework.
With online shopping cart abandonment rates currently sitting above 60% across the web we’re looking to this API to reduce friction during the checkout process. See the integration guide for the Bot Framework.
Learn more on Microsoft Seller Center!
Cortana is extended via Cortana Skills, which allows bots created via the Bot Framework to be published to the Cortana Channel as a new skill. Through the Bot Framework, you can build, debug, deploy and publish bots that users can access via the Cortana Channel. Adding your existing bots to Cortana is simply an exercise in adding a new channel, verifying your scenarios work well on a speech-first canvas, and then publishing the bot to the Cortana Channel.
To jumpstart development of Cortana Skills (and bots!) Microsoft has added more than 20 predefined, fully customizable, packages in LUIS that help bootstrap language model creation. Some examples include Sports, Weather, Contacts, and Calendars.
Learn more about building Cortana Skills.
5 Language Understanding (LUIS)
Language Understanding Intelligent Service (LUIS), part of Microsoft Cognitive Services, helps developers integrate language models that understand users quickly and easily, using either prebuilt or customized models. Updates to LUIS include increased intents and entities, introduction of new powerful developer tools for productivity, additional ways for the community to use and contribute, improved speech recognition with Microsoft Bot Framework, and more global availability.
Microsoft has improved all aspects of LUIS. On May 10th they’ve added Language Features such as Lists, Composite Entities, Semantic suggestions/recommendation, and even Spell Checking.
The most requested LUIS features have all been added. In this release Microsoft has:
- Increased application limits to 80 intents and 30 entities.
- Added a new List Entity type, which includes synonyms.
- Added support for Korean and Dutch, with additional locales for French, Spanish
- Improved performance and quality of Microsoft DateTime and Number built-in entities for Spanish, English, and Chinese. In addition they have open-sourced these recognizers for community use and contribution!
- Added SDLC tools such as Versioning, Production/Staging slots, Batch Testing, and Application sharing.
- Added Semantic Dictionaries that help with bootstrapping list building.
- Added the ability to utilize your language model to improve speech recognition with Bot Framework.
- Included fine-grained modifiable pre-built Domains (intents and entities)
- Planning 20 domains from Cortana and newly created at Microsoft Build
- Enabled worldwide deployments, including West Europe, East US 2, & West Central US, and South East Asia.
The LUIS documentation has been updated throughout, and integrated into Microsoft’s documentation portal.
The Bot Framework has added support for speech throughout the platform. Microsoft updated their protocols, included SSML Support in the SDKs, and even integrated your bot’s LUIS models into their speech systems to provide improved speech recognition, so your users can tap, type and talk to your bot. Microsoft also have speech debugging support through the in-portal Webchat control and the Bot Framework Emulator.
CLICK HERE to read the full article and learn more about Microsoft’s recent updates to their Bot Framework!