Conversational AI is quickly becoming a way in which businesses engage with employees and customers: from creating virtual assistants and redesigning customer interactions to using conversational assistants to help employees communicate and work better together. According to Gartner, “By 2020, conversational artificial intelligence will be a supported user experience for more than 50 percent of large, consumer-centric enterprises.”* At Microsoft, we envision a world where natural language becomes the new user interface, enabling people to do more with what they say, type and input, understanding preferences and tasks and modeling experiences based on the way people think and remember.
Today, we are announcing we have signed an agreement to acquire XOXCO, a software product design and development studio known for its conversational AI and bot development capabilities. The company has been paving the way in conversational AI since 2013 and was responsible for the creation of Howdy, the first commercially available bot for Slack that helps schedule meetings, and Botkit, which provides the development tools used by hundreds of thousands of developers on GitHub. Over the years, we have partnered with XOXCO and have been inspired by this work.
We have shared goals to foster a community of startups and innovators, share best practices and continue to amplify our focus on conversational AI, as well as to develop tools for empowering people to create experiences that do more with speech and language.
The Microsoft Bot Framework, available as a service in Azure and on GitHub, supports over 360,000 developers today. With this acquisition, we are continuing to realize our approach of democratizing AI development, conversation and dialog, and integrating conversational experiences where people communicate.
Over the last six months, Microsoft has made several strategic acquisitions to accelerate the pace of AI development. The acquisition of Semantic Machines in May brought a revolutionary new approach to conversational AI. In July, we acquired Bonsai to help reduce the barriers to AI development by combining machine teaching, reinforcement learning and simulation. In September, we acquired Lobe, a company that has created a simple visual interface empowering anyone to develop and apply deep learning and AI models quickly, without writing code. The acquisition of GitHub in October demonstrates our belief in the power of communities to help fuel the next wave of bot development.
Our goal is to make AI accessible and valuable to every individual and organization, amplifying human ingenuity with intelligent technology. To do this, Microsoft is infusing intelligence across all its products and services to extend individuals’ and organizations’ capabilities and make them more productive, providing a powerful platform of AI services and tools that makes innovation by developers and partners faster and more accessible, and helping transform business by enabling breakthroughs to current approaches and entirely new scenarios that leverage the power of intelligent technology.
We’re excited to welcome the XOXCO team and look forward to working with the community to accelerate innovation and help customers capitalize on the many benefits AI can offer.
*Gartner, Is Conversational AI the Only UX You Will Ever Need?, 25 April 2018