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Join the Conversation with Bot Framework

With Windows 10 updates, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella declared that human conversation can be the User Interface (UI) of the future and made that point by demonstrating how Microsoft’s Cortana relies on experts in the form of Bots. 

Attendees of Microsoft’s Build 2016 conference were treated to the wonderful updates of core products like Azure, Cortana, Skype, and Office 365 among others. A common thread in many of the product improvements is how adding intelligence and synchronicity to these canvases improves the user experience by changing the way users communicate with apps, and how apps communicate with other apps on the user’s behalf.

Bots are available to the user as an interface to the core business service provided by apps. For example, if a user requires a hotel room or car rental then Cortana can connect to the Bot rather than the user needing to open (or even download) an app.

So where does the Bot Framework fit in? Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella outlined how Microsoft is making it easier for developers to build bots that are available in all of these canvases with the Bot Framework. Bot Framework sits in the ‘Intelligence’ pillar of the Cortana Intelligence Suite, which also provides developers easier integration of intelligence, machine learning, and big data capabilities. 

According to the Bot Framework documentation the Framework consists of three pillars: the Bot Connector, Bot Builder SDKs, and the Bot Directory.

Bot Connector

The Bot Connector is a key piece of the framework as it controls the routing, app (Bot) state, Intelligent Services, in addition to connecting the Bot to the various channels like email, Skype Slack, etc. Using Bot Connector developers can add Language Understanding Intelligent Service (LUIS) to bots within the project using LUIS Libraries. According to Microsoft cognitive Services LUIS will allow your bot to "Understand language contextually, so your app communicates with people in the way they speak.”

Bot Builder SDK

The Bot Builder SDK is hosted on GitHub and is available for Node.Js and C# developers and includes a number of useful dialog tools. Among the features are reusable dialogs, scalable conversations, built in prompts and more. The getting started documentation is easy to follow for C# and Node.Js.

Bot Directory

The Bot directory currently contains bots featured at this year’s Build event, but will be available to registered Bots through the Bot Connector.

With the release of Bot Framework, Microsoft is providing developers the ability to create Bots for multiple canvases using familiar tools and languages. With the Bot Connector, developers can integrate intelligent services such as language recognition and speech intelligence using existing libraries, and allow the connector to manage the conversation and Bot State. The bot directory will allow users to search for and add bots to their conversation experiences.

As personal assistants like Cortana become smarter and more integrated into the daily interactions of hardware users, the ways a user interacts with apps will become more conversational.  For developers, this means the UI/UX design and implementation is not limited to screen size, pixel density, and branding colors. UI/UX discussions must also include a consideration of how users want to speak and interact with the brand or service. How will the product, brand, or service benefit from access within Skype, Slack, or Outlook? For many developers, this means joining the conversation with Bot Framework.

Posted by: Andrew Conniff, Developer | 20 April 2016

Tags: Build, Bot Framework, Cortana

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