14 July 2022
In this fast-paced and ever-growing world, there has never been a greater need for automation than right now. Working in the Integrove Innovation Lab we practically tested some of these concepts and helped a client digitally enable their first-line support. In this article, we’re going to be covering the basics of bots. We’ll discuss the different kinds of bots and what they’re used for, as well as the different tools Microsoft developed to allow you to build your own bots, regardless of whether you’re a developer, support consultant or even an office administrator.
What are Bots, and what do they do?
A Bot: Short for Robot, and sometimes referred to as internet bots, are essentially computer programs. They run as agents for either other users on the internet, or other programs. A bot emulates the behaviour of a human.
They are developed by sets of algorithms, to help perform tasks such as conversing with users or gathering content from other websites (also known as scraping).
Fun Fact: Before the introduction of the World Wide Web, one of the most famous chatbots was a program called Eliza. An NLP program was developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1966 as a research project, which pretended to be a psychotherapist and would answer a user’s question with another question.
Here are a few well-known types of bots:
- Chatbots - These programs can simulate conversations with a human being. Some of the most well-known examples of chatbots include virtual assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant.
- Social bots – Often referred to as “Opinion Bots” are common across social media platforms. They tend to influence discussions with users on these platforms.
- Shopbots – These bots shop around the web and locate the best prices for a specific product. One of the best-known shopbots is used on the online platform PCPartPicker to find the best prices for computer components.
- Knowbots – These bots essentially go around collecting data and information by visiting thousands of websites, matching a specific criterion. The original goal of Knowbots was to serve as simple and redundant digital assistants.
- Spiders or crawlers – These bots, known as “web crawlers”, visit web pages to index them for search engines such as Google.
- Web scraping crawlers – Scrapers go to web pages purely for data harvesting and aim to extract the most relevant content.
- Monitoring bots – These bots perform pulse checks on a regular basis to ensure a particular system or website is running correctly.
- Transactional bots – They automate simple tasks that normally require phone calls or human interaction. For example, cancelling a stolen bank card or finding a particular business’s operating hours.
What tools does Microsoft offer for bots?
Microsoft has come up with a bunch of solutions for these various bots. Each offers a unique developer experience, huge customization options, and the ability for anyone to deliver functional bots within their organizations.
Here are the three main tools we will look at:
- Azure Bot Framework
- Power Virtual Agents
- Microsoft Bot Composer
Azure Bot Framework is the most advanced with features such as complex NLP (LUIS), advanced Azure and Third-party integration. The Bot Framework works hand in hand with the Microsoft Bot Composer. This gives users a more friendly “drag and drop” editor. This gives non-technical users the ability to create bots without any coding experience.
If you’re a developer and you want to create something incredibly unique and engaging, you can take full advantage of the Bot Framework and extend it with the SDK (available in C# and NodeJS).
Power Virtual Agents are the most basic yet also most efficient manner of creating simple chatbots. These bots can automate human behaviour and handle simple functions and tasks. With Power Virtual Agents, almost anybody can create bots and embed them into platforms such as Teams or Slack. It’s also easy to integrate bots with Microsoft’s Power Apps for a richer and more sophisticated bot.
Bots at Integrove
Need a bot but don’t know where to start? At Integrove we can help you with all your technology needs. We don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach. Our team of experts can craft a bot to suit your specific needs, and integrate it with any platform. Let us help your business move forward with bespoke digital solutions.