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Microsoft

In the 6 months since Microsoft Build 2020, where we made exciting steps forward, such as the GA availability of Bot Framework Composer and the Virtual Assistant Solution Accelerator, we have continued to drive the Conversational AI platform forward - improving the developer experience and meeting the needs of our enterprise customers. Azure Bot Service now handles 2.5 billion messages per month, double the rate announced at Build, with over 525,000 registered developers.

 

Our updates for Ignite 2020 include a new release of Bot Framework Composer, a public preview of Orchestrator, providing language understanding arbitration / decision making, optimized for conversational AI applications and version 4.10 of the Bot Framework SDK.


New release of Bot Framework Composer


Bot Framework Composer v.1.1.1, released earlier this month, has added a number of significant features to the application, including the addition of creation and management capabilities for QnA Maker knowledgebases. Now, as with the existing integration for LUIS apps, QnA pairs can be added / edited from within Composer, improving overall productivity by removing the need to use a separate portal for these tasks.

 

QnA Maker integration in ComposerQnA Maker integration in Composer

 

The ability to build bots that target multiple languages has been added, with a user able to produce appropriate LU (language understanding) and LG (language generation) assets in seconds to target one or more alternative locales.

 

Other enhancements in this release include automatic generation of manifests when developing Bot Framework Skills, the addition of Intellisense for text editing and preview support for a JavaScript bot runtime.

 

We also continue to deepen our integration with other key partners within Microsoft and starting this fall, users of Power Virtual Agents will be able to create custom dialogs and directly add them to Power Virtual Agents bots. These dialogs can be saved, hosted, and executed together with Power Virtual Agents bot content, providing a simpler way to extend bot capabilities with custom code.

 

The next release of Composer, later this year, will feature further QnA Maker integration, improvements to the authoring canvas and the ability to easily re-use assets built with Composer between projects.

 

Additionally, we are updating the list of pre-built skills, that we released as part of Virtual Assistant Solution Accelerator 1.0, to be based on Bot Framework Composer and adaptive dialogs.

 

Get started with Composer today at http://aka.ms/bfcomposer

 

Orchestrator public preview!

 

Conversational AI applications today are built using multiple technologies to fulfil various language understanding needs, such as LUIS and QnA Maker, as well as often being composed of multiple skills, with each fulfilling a specific conversation topic. Orchestrator answers a critical need for language understanding arbitration and decision making, to route incoming user request to an appropriate skill or to dispatch to a specific sub-component within a bot.

 

Orchestrator is a transformer-based solution, which is heavily optimized for conversational AI applications and runs locally within a bot. You can find more details and try the Orchestrator public preview by visiting https://aka.ms/bf-orchestrator.

 

Later this year, we plan to introduce a preview of Orchestrator support within Composer and the Virtual Assistant Solution Accelerator.

 

Bot Framework SDK 4.10 released

 

Version 4.10 of the Bot Framework SDK is now available, adding several new supporting features for our key partners. These included enhanced support for building skills for Power Virtual Agents and adding adaptive dialog and additional lifecycle event support for Microsoft Teams.

 

A core focus of this release was on quality across the entire stack, covering key pillars of documentation, customer supportability, customer feature requests, code quality and improvements to our internal team agility. Almost 600 GitHub issues were resolved as part of the release, across our SDK languages (C#, JavaScript, Python, Java) and our tools, including accessibility improvements for WebChat.

 

See the August 2020 release notes for more details on v4.10 of the SDK.

 

Azure Bot Service

 

We are excited to announce that the Alexa channel for Azure Bot Service (ABS), which went entered public preview at Build 2020, is now generally available! 

 

In response to feedback from customers, ABS now has support for WhatsApp, allowing you to surface your bot on the popular chat app, alongside the existing channels available via ABS. Built in partnership with InfoBip, the WhatsApp adapter can be added to your bot within minutes. Get started with WhatsApp integration for Bot Framework at https://aka.ms/bfwhatsapp.

 

As part of our commitment to customer privacy and security, ABS has introduced support for Azure Lockbox. Lockbox enables approval flows and audits when support engineers require access to customer data and, additionally, we will soon add customer managed encryption keys.

 

Azure Bot Service now has expanded channel support within the Azure US Government region and, looking ahead, we will be adding a preview of Adaptive Cards 2.0 and SSO (single sign-on) support for the Teams and WebChat channels.

 

Ignite 2020 sessions

 

Conversational AI Customer and Employee Virtual Assistants
Darren Jefford, Group Program Manager, Conversational AI

Building Bots with Power Virtual Agents and extending them with Microsoft Bot Framework
Marina Kolomiets - Senior Program Manager, Power Virtual Agents