Typing is so 2015. The future according to Microsoft will see humans interacting with artificial intelligence naturally through voice, touch, pens and holograms, aided by ever-more-sophisticated bots that can do everything from order you a pizza to message a friend about your travel plans.
At least that’s the vision laid out by Satya Nadella and crew at this year’s Build 2016 developer conference. In a keynote Wednesday, Microsoft teased new features of the next major update to Windows 10, previously code-named ‘Redstone.’
The ‘anniversary edition’ of the operating system will incorporate biometric authentication for apps and password-protected websites, along with new abilities to manipulate hand-drafted images and notes with Microsoft Ink. It will be available free to all Windows 10 customers this summer, and will also further integrate the operating system with XBox. Apps and games will all be available in one unified Windows Store, and XBox One will include a dev mode that allows developers to build and test projects directly from their consoles.
An Anniversary SDK Preview for some of these features became available to developers Wednesday.
Also drawing cheers from developers in the audience was the surprise announcement that the Bash shell is coming to Windows, allowing for programming in a Linux command-line environment.
HoloLens, Microsoft’s augmented reality kit, is now shipping to developers, and the company is releasing all the code for its Galaxy Explorer app on GitHub. The app allows users to virtually explore stars and planets, and was developed as a result of an app idea contest Microsoft ran to promote HoloLens.
But perhaps the most forward-looking announcement was that Microsoft is launching a Bot Framework that will allow developers to connect their existing bots to communications platforms like Skype, SMS and GroupMe, as well as build new bots using an open-source bot-builder SDK.
Developers can sign up now to get a Skype Bot SDK, and Skype consumers will also have access to bots in the latest version of the app.
It’s all part of a new initiative called “Conversations as a Platform” that also involves giving Cortana new powers to act as a personal digital assistant. Some of those powers, demoed during the keynote, include eavesdropping on phone conversations to pick up tidbits about your schedule, and interacting independently with other bots to make and modify purchases.
“Human language is the new UI,” said Nadella.
More than 270 million people are now actively using Windows 10, Microsoft executive Terry Myerson told audience members at the conference. More than 5 million people have visited the Windows Store, and 4 million US Department of Defense devices will upgrade to the operating system this year, Myerson said.
Microsoft has said it wants to see 1 billion devices using Windows 10 by 2018.