Introducing Azure Bot Service

I’ve been working on the Azure Bot Service for the last few months internally as it got ready for its preview launch at Connect(); event last week. Andrea Orimoto who is a Program Manager in engineering did a great 7 min video that highlighted the benefits of the service.

I did a great 45 min video with Lars Liden who is a program manager in the team. The video shows how easy it is to get started and shows how the Language Understanding Intelligence Service (LUIS) can help make your bot seem more natural in conversation.

For me personally, this is really exciting as it allows developers to get started with a bot in a matter of minutes. My 3 top things:

  1. The bot templates get you up to speed so quickly and you can start chatting to your bot through the browser emulator
  2. The integrated Microsoft Bot Framework allows developers to publish to most chat bot platforms in a matter of seconds…like Microsoft Teams, Skype, Slack and WeChat.
  3. Local development support, which piggy backs the Azure Functions CLI, so that you can code locally and continuously deploy to Azure.

This is a preview and there is room for improvement. My personal wish list is:

  1. Skype for Business support - this is a Microsoft Bot Framework request and would go a long way with bot developers in the enterprise for sure!
  2. Local development support for Mac — this is a Azure Functions request as the Azure Functions CLI is built on .NET framework and not .NET Core.
  3. One-click integration with LUIS — the language understanding stuff is AMAZING and really makes it natural to speak to the chat bots. But rigging this into existing templates isn’t as easy as it could be. Also training LUIS can be time consuming and cycles need to be done to improve that.