When Microsoft announced last week that it was acquiring chat bot maker Colloquis to create Windows Live Agents and Service Agents, it seemed to come out of the blue, but a reader informs me that Microsoft has a history with the company under it’s former name of Conversagent which had just been changed in July.
In particular, Conversagent provided a little known IM answer bot for Microsoft’s Encarta encyclopedia called Encarta Instant Answers:
Microsoft has released a brand new MSN Messenger bot called ‘Encarta® Instant Answers’!
This MSN chat bot, as the name suggests, provides answers to your questions from Microsoft’s Encarta encyclopedia through MSN Messenger. This can be extremely useful for quick fact finding or some ‘Instant’ homework help!
Simply add the bot to your MSN Messenger contact list, say ‘hello’ to it and follow the prompts from the conversation.
The email address to add in MSN Messenger for this bot is firstname.lastname@example.org.
It was a minor fad at the end of last year with various weblogs reproducing bot conversations (e.g. here) and it currently works in Windows Live Messenger as well.
Beyond the amusement factor, Encarta Instant Answers was also an example of the kind of features available for MSN Messenger bots developed with the Buddyscript SDK that Colloquis/Conversagent was offering for free in conjunction with Microsoft:
In partnership with Microsoft, Colloquis is making available a free license to the Colloquis SDK for the development of integrated BOT and Activity applications on the MSN Messenger platform.
Looking to the future, another aspect in the deal was undoubtedly that Colloquis holds a patent 20060136298 titled Methods and apparatus for contextual advertisements in an online conversation thread. Not only snappy patter, but ads too!