On Wednesday, Microsoft announced that it is acquiring software company XOXOCO. XOXOCO developed a friendly chatbots called Howdy, which helps users of the popular Slack work chat app schedule meetings.
The 9-year-old Austin based company XOXOCO also created the Botkit, which provides development tools for the software development platform GitHub, which was also acquired by Microsoft just last month.
“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,” Lili Cheng, Corporate VP of Conversational AI at Microsoft, said in a statement.
With this acquisition, Microsoft plans to the technology to improve the Microsoft Bot Framework which currently supports over 360,000 developers. This framework helps people build bots for Facebook Messenger and other platforms that assist with customer service and other simple tasks. Microsoft also announced on Wednesday other improvements to its AI platform, including Cognitive Service Containers, a new way to make it easier for developers to run AI-based services on internet-connected devices, both in the home and in industrial settings, as part of Microsoft’s push to dominate so-called edge computing.
In this direction, Microsoft has also acquired several other AI startups this year, including Semantic Machines in May, Bonsai in July, and Lobe in September. Analyst firm Gartner estimates that by 2020, conversational artificial intelligence will be used in over half of large, consumer-centric enterprises.
“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,” Cheng said.
“The big idea,” Microsoft Corporate VP of AI Platform Eric Boyd tells Business Insider, “is to make it easy for those connected devices to connect back up to the cloud to get the latest updates to their training model. In other words, Microsoft wants to help developers make devices that get smarter, faster. This is the solution that makes it simple.”