Barely two weeks after launching the new AI-enabled Bing on desktop (and a few ups and downs in that time), Microsoft today announced that the new Bing is now also available in the Bing mobile app and through Microsoft’s Edge app. browser for Android and iOS. With that, you can now also use voice input to interact with Bing’s chat mode. Also new is an integration with Skype, Microsoft’s messaging app, which now lets you engage Bing in a text conversation to add additional information.
Microsoft’s bringing the new Bing to mobile isn’t exactly a surprise. After all, the company gives users who install the Bing mobile app priority on the waiting list to access the new features. However, its integration with Skype hasn’t necessarily been on everyone’s radar, in part because it often seems that Microsoft has forgotten about Skype, even though the service still has 36 million daily users, according to the company.
With this new integration (now in preview), you can add Bing to any chat (using the “@Bing” command) and ask the same kind of questions as you would in normal chat mode. A neat feature here is that you can choose whether you want your answers to appear as bullet points, text, or in the form of a “simplified answer,” as Microsoft calls it. That’s actually a feature I’d like to see in regular Bing chat as well.
If this sounds a little familiar to you, you may be one of the few people who remember Google’s Allo, that company’s ill-fated attempt at creating an AI-enhanced messaging app. Also in Allo, users could chat with the Google Assistant and bring it into conversations, although this was 2016 and major language models like GPT-3 didn’t exist yet, so its capabilities were limited (although that wouldn’t happen in return). not just hallucinatory answers either).
As far as the mobile apps go, there are no real surprises here. The addition of voice search is a nice bonus if you’re mobile. As a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed, you can dictate your questions and Bing will also use Microsoft’s text-to-speech technology to read out the answer. We’ll have to see how Bing sounds, though. Microsoft has given up on the Cortana voice assistant in recent years (and Bing specifically notes that it’s “not an assistant”), but there’s little doubt that these big language models make a compelling use case for voice assistants, which have long been waiting for a great feature that goes beyond setting timers.
It’s no secret that Microsoft had to cut Bing’s original functionality quite a bit in recent days, as users pushed the system far beyond what the company had tested for. And while I certainly have, I’ve also found the new Bing to be quite helpful in my day-to-day interactions with it. It’s still very early days for these kinds of tools, and thankfully Microsoft has shown itself to be quite receptive to its critics – even though I’m saddened that it now limits users to just six turns per conversation and a total of 60 questions per day.