Microsoft is integrating its Bing chatbot into iOS and Android apps, allowing users to access AI-powered search features on mobile devices.
The search chatbot was launched two weeks ago, to considerable fanfare as well as criticism. Millions of users who had signed up to a waitlist were given free rein to test its web interface. Now, they will be able to use it on Microsoft’s Bing, Edge, and Skype apps on Androids and iPhones. Bing can even be added to a group chat on Skype to help answer queries if that’s something you want, and it can use machine translation to support over 100 languages.
“Because we know 64 [per cent] of searches occur on mobile phones, we are releasing all new Bing and Edge mobile apps to serve as your copilot for the web even when you are away from your desktop,” Microsoft announced on Tuesday.
Bing is designed to be a more flexible conversational interface for web search. Users can ask the chatbot questions in a conversational way that might not be effective for normal search engines, and Bing will generate a chatty response.
When trying to plan a holiday, for example, people might browse through numerous web pages to look at top tourist attractions in a particular city. With the new Bing, people can directly ask it to come up with a travel itinerary and it’ll list a number of places to visit.
“Imagine an unexpected layover in a new city,” Microsoft envisioned. “As you plan a quick afternoon stop in Tokyo, you ask Bing to help find a place to store your luggage. It then provides tips for navigating the metro system on your way to the famed Shinjuku station. With a few hours to explore, Bing creates a short itinerary, helping you get the most out of your quick visit, and even translates along the way.”
Unfortunately, Bing doesn’t perform nearly as well as Microsoft’s visions. The AI chatbot isn’t perfect and tends to generate false information. When asked to come up with the best nightlife options in Mexico during the company’s demo, it produced a list of restaurants and bars with wrong details – including one place that didn’t even exist. Bing will also veer off track and can generate very bizarre responses when conversations get progressively longer.
Speaking of Redmond… If you use the developmental canary build of Microsoft Edge to download Google Chrome, you’ll find Edge injecting a banner ad into Google.com’s download page talking up how great Edge is. It’s an aggressive move by Microsoft to keep people using Edge rather than Chrome.
Last week, Microsoft capped conversations to five chat turns per session and no more than 50 in total per day after users reported Bing becoming rude, emotionally manipulative, and hostile. That limit is being increased slightly. People will now be able to have six chat turns per session, and 60 in total per day. (A chat turn is counted when a user has asked Bing a question, and it has replied.)
“We intend to bring back longer chats, and are working hard as we speak on the best way to do this responsibly … Our intention is to go further, and we plan to increase the daily cap to 100 total chats soon. In addition, with this coming change your normal searches will no longer count against your chat totals,” the software behemoth assured users in a statement.
Developers are reportedly working on a feature that would allow users to adjust Bing’s tone – its responses could be tuned to be more precise, balanced, or creative. Redmond is also planning – at some future point – to roll out Bing to other applications like its workplace communications platform, Teams. ®