Top 10 Microsoft AI tools to keep on your radar

By Matthew Kruczek

2018 was a great year for artificial intelligence. We saw the birth of new tools and technologies that helped developers build cutting edge software and shift companies into the AI mainstream. With that foundation to build from, 2019 promises to be a year where we’ll see the maturation of AI technologies as well as new solutions, but what will make those solutions successful? 

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently shared

“To be the leader in it, it's not enough just to sort of have AI capability that we can exercise—you also need the ability to democratize it so that every business can truly benefit from it.”

With that perspective in mind, Microsoft has worked with their developer communities to create and update their toolsets. Here’s a list of the top 10 Microsoft AI tools to watch this year.

1. Running AI outside the cloud

One of the limitations that Microsoft’s AI ecosystem in 2018 was its reliability on the cloud in order to function. The power of the Microsoft AI machine was at companies’ disposal, but only if they had a connection to the internet. In 2019, that all changes with the ability to containerize Cognitive Services APIs, allowing them to be deployed to a variety of environments, regardless of connectivity—powering an “intelligent edge” of connected systems that gather and analyze data with the end user (and business objectives) in mind.

2. QnA Maker

The first chatbot many companies create is an FAQ bot; this straightforward but powerful tool is something that’s applicable to all types of businesses, from retail customer service to enterprise sales. Microsoft recognized this and created a point-and-click tool that allows companies to create a powerful FAQ chatbot—complete with Natural Language capabilities—in a matter of moments.

3. Azure Cognitive Search

With the new Azure Cognitive Search, you can now use the power of AI to help structure your data so searching your documents is intuitive and much more effective.

4. Project Personality

Anyone who creates chatbots knows that not all conversations work for all audiences—tone and personality go a long way in reaching your users. That’s why Microsoft created a new tool called Personality Chat to give their chatbots the ability to have believable small talk with users using specific personality profiles. From “professional” to “comedic,” chatbots powered with Personality Chat engage your users at a more personal level.

5. Project Conversation Learner

Teaching a chatbot how to have an engaging dialogue used to be a manual process, requiring programmers to be the go-between for business owners or domain experts. With Microsoft’s new Conversation Learner service, non-technical users can now fully participate in the training of chatbot interactions through a rich, easy-to-use UI.

6. Bing Visual Search

Companies like H&M, Pinterest and Home Depot are already starting to realize the potential of searching through images. Microsoft has created an easy way to harness this technology with the Bing Visual Search service. This tool allows for better context identification on search engine results and can provide more powerful product recommendations for ecommerce sites.

7. Content Moderator

With the Content Moderator services, companies can utilize image and language detection AI to identify explicit or offensive content in their data feeds, allowing employees to offload time-consuming filtering tasks and focus on mission-critical responsibilities.

8. Bot Emulator v2

The new and improved Bot Emulator showcases a wide range of capabilities for developers including chat transcripts, direct connection with Microsoft Azure and enhanced debugging capabilities.

9. Bot Framework v4

Microsoft has made creating chatbots simple and straightforward with its Microsoft Bot Framework introduced back at Build 2016. For 2019, Microsoft rebuilt that framework from the ground up, incorporating many community and partner suggestions to make the framework as developer-friendly as possible.

10. Azure Bot Service

Last year Microsoft created an Azure service to help developers create chatbots in the cloud with its Azure Bot Service. This year, they continue that commitment by introducing four new chatbot templates—Language Understanding, Question and Answer, Proactive and Form—which are quick and easy ways to get started with some of the typical scenarios that you see in the chatbot world.

About the author

Matt Kruczek is the VP of Mobile, Web and AI at Tallan. Matt has extensive experience in the software industry and is responsible for creating and maintaining any and all architectures and strategies pertaining to the mobile, web and AI disciplines.

He has architected and developed several end-to-end Line of Business applications using a variety of Microsoft Technologies including WCF, WPF, ASP.NET , C#, VB, MVC, SQL Server, Microsoft Bot Framework and Entity Framework.