Bing announces AI-powered new ‘intelligent search’ features

At Microsoft’s AI event yesterday in San Francisco, the company showcased its vision for AI-enabled computing, as well as its AI differentiation strategy. The latter essentially boils down to three big ideas: making AI-supported software broadly accessible to people to improve “everyday” experiences, the seamless combining of work and personal functionality in the same tools and the intention to be an ethical AI company.
Microsoft showed how AI and machine learning are now supporting its marquee products, from Windows to Office 365 and Bing. The most impressive demonstration of the day (from a self-interested perspective) featured AI-guided and automated design suggestions in PowerPoint.
There were several Bing-centric AI announcements, all under the heading of “intelligent search“:

Intelligent Answers
Intelligent Image Search
Conversational Search

Intelligent Answers
Think of this as a kind of “next-gen Featured Snippets.” But what is different and interesting is that Bing is often summarizing or comparing multiple sources of information rather than just presenting a single answer.
If there are competing perspectives on an

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Google bringing the Assistant to tablets and Lollipop Android phones

Google is rolling out the Assistant to more devices. It will soon be available on Android tablets running Nougat and Marshmallow, and smartphones running Lollipop.
Tablets in the US running English will be the first to get access. However, a wide array of Android 5.0 smartphones (Lollipop) will get the Assistant: Those operating in English in major markets and in Spanish in the US, Mexico and Spain; and Lollipop smartphones in Italy, Japan, Germany, Brazil and Korea.
Google is pushing the Assistant out to more devices as the market becomes more competitive and AI development accelerates.
A July 2017 report from Verto Analytics found that 42 percent of US smartphone owners used virtual assistants, in the aggregate, on average 10 times per month. That translated into more than 70 million smartphone owners and almost 1 billion hours per month in the US. The numbers are likely somewhat higher now.
Personal Assistant Usage Numbers & Demographics

Source: Verto Analytics (5/17)
Siri was the most

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Bing launches bots for local businesses

Bots are coming to Bing in a big way. Through its Bot Framework, Microsoft is starting to integrate chatbots into search results — to make search more interactive and transactional.
In April, Matt McGee spotted the appearance of chat functionality for selected Seattle-area restaurants. That is now rolling out officially (still only to restaurants) through Bing Places and the newly launched Business Bot program. Microsoft will automatically create a bot from the data in Bing Places.
The business doesn’t need to do anything technical. It just answers a few structured questions and accepts the bot agreement terms. Thereafter, when users search for the business, a screen like the following will appear:

Users can then get basic questions about the business answered through the bot (e.g., “do you have outdoor seating?”). If there’s a question it can’t answer, the bot will refer the user to a phone number.
The bot can also ask business owners additional questions, depending on what information users are seeking. The new

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Siri is Google’s nearest mobile search competitor [Report]

A new study from Fivesight Research, “US Consumer Search Preferences Smartphone & Desktop: Q1 2017,” finds that Siri is the mobile “search engine” of choice after Google. The study was based on a survey of 800 US adults split roughly evenly between iOS and Android users.
Google was by far the dominant mobile search engine, with an 84 percent aggregate share among respondents. Among Android users, Google’s search share was 90 percent. Among iPhone owners Google had a 78 percent share. After Google, however, Siri was named by more respondents as their “primary search engine” than Bing or Yahoo. (However, this doesn’t reflect query volume, just identification as the primary engine of choice.)

Siri was the primary search engine of 13 percent of iPhone owners. This finding is significant because it suggests the long-term, potentially disruptive impact of voice and virtual assistants on traditional “query in a box” results. It’s important to point out, however, that these responses reflect

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Move over Amazon Echo & Google Home: Here comes Microsoft Cortana

Can’t decide which voice-activated home assistant you want, Amazon Echo or Google Home? Next year, you’ll have a third choice — Microsoft’s Cortana.
Unlike Amazon and Google, Microsoft isn’t making a Cortana device itself. Rather, today it announced a way for anyone to integrate its Cortana agent into devices, through the Cortana Devices SDK.
That’s apparently going to be used by Harman Kardon to make a speaker with Cortana smarts to be released next year. Microsoft shared the news in a blog post today, along with a short teaser video:

No pricing, exact release date or even a name has been announced. Presumably, other manufacturers could also come out with their own Cortana devices — and it’s a fair bet that Microsoft will likely make its own, too.
The post Move over Amazon Echo & Google Home: Here comes Microsoft Cortana appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Buying Viv, Samsung makes its “me too” virtual assistant play

Feeling intensifying pressure from Google, Apple and Amazon, Samsung has acquired virtual assistant Viv. CEO Dag Kittlaus, who ran Siri before Apple bought it, will continue to operate Viv “independently” but still work closely with Samsung.
Not content to rely on the Google Assistant, Samsung undoubtedly felt that it needed its own virtual assistant capability (It already has voice search). But like so many Samsung “me too” products and experiences (e.g., S Voice, Samsung Pay), it’s likely to fall short on the smartphone. Where Viv may shine and add real value for Samsung is on other products and smart home appliances.
Samsung understands correctly that virtual assistants will figure more and more prominently, not only in the mobile (search) experience but as a UI/UX across platforms and devices and especially in the smart home. (Viv can also be deployed behind chat/messaging.)
Siri was sold before it was able to fully realize the founding vision, which was to disintermediate Google and

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The voice search explosion and how it will change local search

Alexander Supertramp /
Since I noted Timothy Tuttle of Mindmeld’s LSA16 comments about the sudden increase in the volume of voice search queries, I’ve noticed an increasing number of articles on the subject. If the attention being given voice search is an indication of its anticipated impact on the marketplace, then it’s going to be a big deal.
The potential for voice search to become a major search medium is well illustrated by the number of slides Mary Meeker devotes to the topic in her annual Internet Trends report that was just released this month. Out of 213 slides, Mary included 23 slides on voice search. And while the numbers on voice search growth vary quite widely, they all agree on one trend: explosive growth.

2016 Internet Trends Report from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
Explosive growth and the reason behind it
At LSA 16, Tuttle shared that within one year (last year), the use of voice search went from a

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Son of Siri: Viv aims to go way beyond today’s digital assistants

Alexander Supertramp /
There’s a confluence of technology advancements that are dramatically changing “search”: mobile, artificial intelligence, big data and natural language processing. From Siri and Alexa to Facebook M and Jibo, voice UIs and virtual assistants are the future.
Ahead of its public unveiling on Monday, the Washington Post ran a story on next-generation virtual assistant Viv. Viv could be described as Son of Siri or Siri 2.0, with much more focus on AI and commerce. It’s built by the same people who launched Siri before Apple acquired it, including co-founder Dag Kittlaus.
Believe it or not, Siri launched way back in 2009 with the goal of advancing the search experience using a natural language interface and delivering actionable/transactional results rather than a SERP. The Post article uses the example of ordering pizza from a nearby restaurant to showcase Viv’s conversational-transactional potential:
“Get me a pizza from Pizz’a Chicago near my office,” one of the engineers said into his

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Microsoft blocks Google Chrome & other browsers from Cortana in latest Windows 10 release

Sorry, Google. You, Firefox, Opera and anyone else with a web browser that competes with Microsoft’s Edge will no longer be able to work within Microsoft’s Cortana digital assistant in Windows 10.
Microsoft buried the news today in a blog post about Cortana’s personalization of search results. It gave a few examples of how Cortana already integrates into Edge and Bing — nothing new, as far as I can tell, despite the blog post’s “Delivering Personalized Search Experiences in Windows 10 through Cortana” headline.
Instead, talking about Cortana personalization is really a set-up for the actual news, euphametically put under a sub-headline of “Protecting the Integrated Search Experience in Windows 10.”
Cortana: Now for Edge only
In that section, Microsoft explains that apparently some software programs are somehow “circumvent the design” of Windows to redirect to other search engines “not designed” to work with Cortana. Here’s the key section:
Unfortunately, as Windows 10 has grown in adoption and usage, we have seen some

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MindMeld Launches Voice Assistant 2.0, Says Voice Search Growing Dramatically

San Francisco-based Expect Labs, which previously positioned itself as a kind of “Google Now in a Box” or “Siri in a Box” for third-party developers, has changed its name to MindMeld. The company is also launching a second generation of its technology, which it now describes as a “platform for creating large-scale language-understanding and question-answering capabilities on apps and devices for any custom content domain.”
MindMeld CEO Tim Tuttle says the technology allows publishers to bring the power of virtual assistants and voice interfaces like Cortana, Google Now, Siri or Amazon Echo to their content, data and applications. One partnership being announced (but not yet live) is Spotify. Tuttle also told me that MindMeld is working with a large cable operator and government agencies.
What MindMeld has developed and brought to market is something like a 2.0 version of the old FAST Search & Transfer, which enabled better site search and content indexing. (FAST was acquired by Microsoft in

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