As Microsoft, Facebook, and other tech giants introduced chatbot platforms over the past few years, their unveilings and demos focused overwhelmingly on customer service. It’s easy to see why: at least in theory, a bot can do a lot to make interactions with customers more efficient. These tech firms hoped that companies looking to save a few dollars on customer service would rush to embrace the new bot paradigm.
That future hasn’t happened yet, in part because bots have failed to live up to their massive hype. But the software offers utility beyond the customer-service space, a fact that some companies are starting to explore. At its Ignite conference this week, Microsoft announced a partnership with Stack Overflow on a bot that helps developers program.
Stack Overflow offers an enormous amount of data for (and on) developers; its surveys provide some interesting breakdowns of these tech pros’ preferred tools and work habits. If you have a question about an annoying bug or programming problem, it’s likely you’ll find an answer on the site.
On a coding level, this Stack Overflow Bot leverages both the Microsoft Bot Framework as well as its Cognitive Services. Developers can ask the bot questions (using natural language) about their work and receive a solution. The bot can also analyze the user’s uploaded screenshots and code before heading off to Stack Overflow’s content database for a suitable answer.
Time will tell whether this use of Microsoft’s A.I. tools is effective, although anything that saves developers time in building software is surely welcome. Microsoft has made A.I. a top corporate priority, with a recent vision statement orienting its business units toward building “best-in-class platforms and productivity services for an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge infused with artificial intelligence (A.I.).”
Microsoft’s new Cognitive Services labs feature a variety of APIs, SDKs, and services intended to make applications “smarter.” At this juncture, only a subset of developers need access to things like computer vision and speech recognition in order to build and iterate on their apps; but the time is likely coming when that usage will grow. In the interim, check out the Microsoft-Stack Overflow bot on GitHub.