Think back to the early days of the Internet. Chances are, you used a search engine like you might previously have used a phone book: To find a specific piece of information, such as a website, address or phone number.
Technology has changed significantly in the years since, and so have our expectations for it. These days, people want more intelligent answers: Maybe they’d like to gather the pros and cons of a certain exercise plan or figure out whether the latest Marvel movie is worth seeing. They might even turn to their favorite search tool with only the vaguest of requests, such as, “I’m hungry.”
When people make requests like that, they don’t just want a list of websites. They might want a personalised answer, such as restaurant recommendations based on the city they are travelling in. Or they might want a variety of answers, so they can get different perspectives on a topic. They might even need help figuring out the right question to ask.
At a Microsoft event in San Francisco in December, Microsoft executives showcased a number of advances in its Bing search engine, Cortana intelligent assistant and Microsoft Office 365 productivity tools that use artificial intelligence (AI) to help people get more nuanced information and assist with more complex needs.