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Microsoft's new acquisition can enhance Cortana's chat bots

Engadget Engadget 16/06/2016 Cherlynn Low
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Looks like Microsoft has been on a shopping spree. Hot on the heels of its massive LinkedIn purchase, the company announced that it's acquired three-year-old messaging-app maker Wand Labs.

In a statement, Microsoft said that the acquisition would "accelerate [its] vision and strategy for Conversation as a Platform." Unveiled at the company's Build 2016 conference in March, Conversation embeds AI bots into Cortana to let users access third-party services within a chat.

If that sounds familiar, it's because Google and Facebook have since also announced similar plans to integrate chatbots into their messaging apps. Facebook Messenger, for instance, already has bots that let you send flowers, get breaking news and go shopping without leaving the app.

Wand Labs would boost Microsoft's ability to offer more in this space, given the former's experience with "third-party developer integration and conversational interfaces," according to Microsoft. Wand has shut down its messaging app, but screenshots on its website show its ability to pull up third-party services such as Yelp and YouTube from its keyboard.

With the Wand application, you could even share access to apps such as Nest's smart thermostat app so the friends you're chatting with can change the temperature for themselves. That's a feature that Facebook and Google Allo don't appear to have yet.

Just like the LinkedIn buy, this acquisition looks to be a natural fit for Microsoft and could even help it get a lead in the chatbot space. Microsoft may even get ahead of the competition for a change.


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