Microsoft's Skype team says Mac and Web users can now check out a preview of Skype Bots. Bots are already available to Android, iOS, and Windows devices. Adding support for OS X and the Web means most Skype users can take advantage of bots for various purposes.
Bots are the new rage. Skype and Facebook Messenger added bots to their apps mere days apart. Bots in Skype rely a bit on Microsoft's Cortana personal assistant. Cortana allows Skype users to manage their contacts and calendar within the app itself, and now also to interact with bots. Microsoft believes artificial intelligence, Cortana, and Skype are the future of communication.
What can the bots do? Bots make it possible to do things such as order a pizza or book a hotel, to check news headlines or enjoy Bing images. Microsoft says more bots are on the way. Skype released tools for developers so companies can create their own bots. Right now, the bots are available only on the text messaging portion of Skype. Bots will soon be available within audio and video calls, as well.
Mac Skype users need to manually add bots to the app. Microsoft says tapping on the "contacts" menu will reveal an option to "add bot." Selecting this will show a list of all the available bots. Simply pick the bots you're interested in interacting with, and they'll be added to your contact list.
Adding bots to the Skype web client requires similar steps. The "discover bots" option should appear in the left toolbar when accessing Skype through a browser.
Microsoft said it has added a handful of new bots to Skype over the past few weeks. The first, called Murphy, can be used to find and create images "for when questions can't be answered by words alone." The second, called Summarize, was design to provide an overview of any given Web page when there isn't enough time to read everything in the screen. Murphy and Summarize join other bots, such as Bing Music, Bing News, Bing Images, Getty Images, and others. They are available to all the platforms that support Skype bots.
For now, access to bots is limited to Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, India, New Zealand, Singapore, and the US.
Facebook's approach to bots is similar. The company introduced bots in Messenger, but calls them Facebook Agents. KLM Airlines was one of the first companies to adopt Facebook Agents, which it uses to allow customers check-in and manage their flight details via Messenger. Facebook rolled out tools for developers, too, and it expects companies to jump on the opportunity to interact with consumers via Messenger.