Microsoft Bob logo

Earlier this week there was a lot of talk that Microsoft Corp. is poised to re-launch its 1990s-era virtual assistant Microsoft Bob.

Marketed then as a non-technical interface to desktop computing operations for Windows 95 and Windows NT, Bob was one of the software company’s more visible flops at that time.

Fast-forward to today when numerous analysts and some users are finding Apple Inc.’s Siri and more recently Google Inc.’s Now quite irritating, Microsoft is proposing a big data version of its old Bob concept.

“I think it will reemerge, but with a deep bit more sophistication,” Bill Gates said of Bob recently. “We were just ahead of our time, like most of our mistakes.”

Stefan Weitz, director of Bing projects from Microsoft, said the new Bob will not likely compete with Siri or Now, but rather mainline the stores of data Microsoft has stockpiled using its own search engine Bing and through partnerships social media giants Facebook, Foursquare, LinkedIn and Yahoo.

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Also included in the program is the development work being done on Satori. Satori, which takes its name from the first step of the Buddhist path to enlightenment, is a Microsoft project that seeks to build the world’s largest repository of knowledge. Satori will collect information from the Internet, organize it in Bing and leverage various applications as means for delivering data to users.

Big data Bob will conceivably benefit from this approach and be able to provide personal help when users need it.

According to Weitz the Satori engine would kick in for instance when Bing monitors a chat sessions.

“As you’re talking in IM, it’s analyzing the utterances,” Weitz said online technology publication PCWorld.com. “For something like ‘Hey, do you want to see a movie?’ – it takes that utterance and automatically does the query for you.”

Weitz said that looking back it was impossible for Bob to survive in the 1990s.  The technology was agent-based and worked with a strictly defined set of rule.

“There was no Internet, there was no way for it to get smarter,” he said.

Bob then was simply not interesting enough.

 



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