Microsoft obviously wasn’t intimidated by the often wild explosions of its AI chatbot Bing and is service launch on iOS and Android mobile apps today, as well as integrating the bot into Skype and adding voice access.
On mobile devices, Bing is now available on Microsoft’s Edge mobile browser and the dedicated Bing app for those who have been accepted onto the waitlist. The functionality of the bot is the same as on the web, that is, it is somewhat muted from its surprising debut. Voice control is also good but a little slow, and Bing’s voice is unremarkable – female (Of course) and vaguely robotic – not as convincing as recent AI voice clones.
Since then, Microsoft has tried to rein in Bing’s weird tendencies, limit the number of answers it can produce and give users the ability to switch between different tones in his response. Although Microsoft has been criticized by many for rushing the bot’s launch, it’s clear the company thinks the focus – and the opportunity to push its mobile browser and search engine into mainstream use – is worth any public relations criticism.
Along with launching the bot on mobile, Microsoft is also integrate it with Skype. There, users will be able to talk directly to Bing or add the bot to other conversations. The company suggests you might chat with a family member about your next vacation, for example, before adding Bing to ask for recommendations on where to go.
As TechCrunch Remarks, the idea of adding a chatbot to a conversation with a human is not entirely new. Google tried this in 2016 with its AI assistant on the old Allo chat app.
What is particularly interesting in this news is to see Microsoft adjusting its Bing strategy in real time. Although the company initially touted the chatbot as a “reinvention of search,” it has now backed off on those claims a bit. In a blog post last week, Microsoft bluntly stated that Bing “is not a replacement or substitute for the search engine” – which was not the impression it gave when launching the chatbot.
In today’s announcement, Microsoft seems to put a lot more emphasis on the social and creative aspects of Bing. That’s not a bad thing, as these functions are better suited to the limitations of AI language models. In the Skype blog post, for example, the company touts Bing as “a great tool for generating ideas and inspiration,” with screenshots of the chatbot writing poetry. There is only a passing mention of using Bing to find out about news; a task for which the chatbot is ill-suited, making frequent factual errors.