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Microsoft patent application details skills marketplace for chatbots

Pexels/Tara Winstead
July 5, 2021

Inventors from Microsoft have developed a system that enables chatbots to help each other in fulfilling user requests. It grants them access to a skills marketplace where the artificial intelligence systems are assigned respective rankings.

The Washington-based tech giant’s  U.S. patent application cites the limitations of chatbots when it comes to certain queries and commands—most systems are not trained to understand, let alone carry out, every user request.

As more industries adopt conversational bots for their customer-facing operations, it expands the untapped pool of automated yet isolated skills. Business Insider predicts that by 2024, consumers would spend $142 billion via chatbots worldwide, up from just $2.8 billion in 2019. Connecting AI systems via a skills network might help realize this five-year boom.

Though Microsoft’s patent application offers a non-limiting description, it states that a chatbot marketplace may comprise identifications and classifications for a plurality of skills, manifests, and chatbots. The marketplace may be searchable by skill types, and the bots may be ranked by relevance to requested skills, popularity, as well as user preferences and interaction history.

Conversational systems may employ natural language processing to determine the skills relevant to a user request. If a chatbot determines that it cannot perform the task, it refers to the marketplace and relays the query to the highest-ranked robot. If multiple high-ranking AIs are available, the user may be offered a selection. The selected AI executes the necessary skill, though it may request additional information from the user beforehand.

Microsoft patent application details skills marketplace for chatbots

Microsoft’s illustration of how the system may work involves a user asking for a dinner reservation and a vehicle booking. While the first chatbot is equipped to carry out the first request, it refers to the skills marketplace for another AI that can book a car. This second conversational system may then request the user’s address before performing the task with a rideshare service.

The cost-saving, round-the-clock nature of conversational AI has spurred adoption by large businesses. Microsoft’s proposed skills marketplace for these systems may help raise acceptance among consumers, since 86% of them still prefer human customer service representatives. To boost customer satisfaction, it may not be necessary to create AIs that can do everything; perhaps all it takes is letting chatbots chat with each other.

The featured patent application, “Marketplace for Conversational Bot Skills”, was filed with the USPTO on February 3, 2020 and published thereafter on June 17, 2021. The applicant is Microsoft Technology Licensing, LLC. The listed inventors are Christopher Lee Mullins, Scott Jeff Gellock, Thomas Matthew Laird-McConnell, Steven Wayne Ickman, Gabriel Gilabert, and John Anthony Taylor.

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