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Skype’s new bots arrive on Mac and web

TechCrunch TechCrunch 19/04/2016 Sarah Perez

At Microsoft’s annual BUILD conference in March, the company announced its plans to bring bots to Skype and other communications platforms, including Slack, Outlook, LINE, and elsewhere. Today, the company says Skype bots have rolled out in “preview” to two additional platforms: Mac and Skype on the web. The bots were already live on mobile, including iPhone, iPad and Android, as well as in the latest version of Skype for Windows Desktop.

In addition to the launch of more platforms, Skype also noted its expanded bot selection, which includes Murphy, a bot to find and create images for when questions can’t be answered by words alone; and Summarize, a Bot designed to give an overview of a web page when you don’t have time to read the whole thing.

To use these bots on Mac, you’ll tap on the Contacts menu in the software, then select the option to “Add Bot…” You can also search for or view a list of available bots, Microsoft says.

On the web, you can select “Discover Bots” on the left toolbar to see a list of those that are available. Additionally, you can visit the bots’ profile page (like those linked above), and choose to “add bot” right from their website.

The web bots are available in Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, India, New Zealand, Singapore, and the U.S.

Unlike Facebook’s bots, which have focused on bringing things like news, weather, and even shopping experiences into Messenger (and poorly at that), Skype’s bots to date have been a bit more practical, if uninspired.

For instance, Skype offers a handful of “Bing” bots that let you search the web for news, images or music from within Skype. Meanwhile, a Getty Images bot lets you search through the company’s stock photography resources. This makes them feel more like utilities you can use in Skype, rather than a new way to interact with businesses and brands, as on Messenger.

The company says the bots are in “Preview,” meaning this is still an early test where you might encounter bugs or other issues that will be corrected in a later release.

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