Microsoft announced Tuesday that it’s introducing a Cortana Skills Kit, allowing developers to add new capabilities to the virtual assistant.
Developers using the kit will be able to turn their web services, bots created with the Microsoft bot framework, and existing Alexa skills into new skills for Cortana. Currently in private preview, the kit will be more widely available in 2017.
Microsoft partners already using the kit include Expedia, which trained Cortana to book hotels using its bot, and CapitalOne, which programmed Cortana to have hands-free, natural language conversations with users about their money.
Developers can sign up here to be notified when the kit is available.
The Cortana Skills Kit was part of a small flurry of AI-related announcements Microsoft made this past week, as the company continues its push to “democratize AI” (and make Cortana more competitive with Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa).
Microsoft is partnering with manufacturers on a range of Cortana-enabled IoT devices, with and without screens. The Cortana Devices SDK will allow manufacturers to integrate Cortana across devices and platforms, and Harmon Kardon has already released a sneak preview of what appears to be an Echo-like audio system, set to debut next year, that combines Cortana with its speakers.
Microsoft also officially introduced its new chat bot, Zo.ai. Zo is a more restrained version of the company’s earlier effort, Tay, which was pulled after it began parroting racist and sexist comments made by Twitter users.