With the explosion of always-connected devices – from smartphones, tablets and “phablets” to internet connected TVs and wearables, the daily use of technology in our lives is becoming more central. People are using multiple devices and a galaxy of specialized applications over the course of a day to do things previously constrained to the offline world. From getting real-time directions to booking a table for dinner, people expect to be able to do things using these devices and applications, not just find information. This increased reliance ratchets up peoples’ expectations and has upped the ante for amazing experiences.
However, this new world is not living up to its potential because the complexity of designing applications that meet the enhanced expectations is becoming increasingly difficult. The scale and technical horsepower required to build digital models of the physical world, the ability to turn simple web data into actionable knowledge and ways to employ naturalistic input like sight and sound to create amazing experiences are beyond the grasp of all but a few companies. We think it is time to democratize this technology to usher in a better future: one where developers build natural user experiences that weave together the web’s knowledge, an understanding of the user and the physical world in which she lives, and connections to services that help her do, not just search.
Bing as a Platform: Weaving an “Intelligent Fabric”
Today we’re announcing a profound expansion of our approach to search by creating a platform that unites the intelligent services that power Bing.com and by making these capabilities available to 3rdparty developers via new APIs and controls.
The Bing platform builds upon the enormous investments we have made in core search technologies that enable devices and services to let users interact with the world’s knowledge and their surroundings in more human ways. These technologies, when integrated into devices and apps, create an “intelligent fabric”. We’ve woven together Bing’s massive worldwide indexing technology infrastructure with 3rdparty applications and data combined with intelligent services derived from years of work from MS Research and the Bing teams to enable the next-generation of app experiences. For us, the future of search is not about more search boxes – it’s about building a platform to enable applications and devices to empower people with knowledge and help them do more – not just search more.
Today at Microsoft we use the Bing services across the breadth of our devices and applications. You can see how they enhance experiences in Windows 8.1 with new search capabilities, Windows Phone with features like Local Scout, Translations, and cutting-edge Voice support, Xbox One with voice command and gesture integration, the award-winning Bing Apps for Office 2013 and Skype.
But it’s not enough to simply enhance our own products. Our heritage as a platform company compels us to put more tools into developers’ hands. Previously we’ve released several search APIs (core search, synonyms, and maps) that are being used by tens of thousands of developers around the world. Today at //build/ we are announcing more of these intelligent services will be available to third party developers to empower them to create more engaging customer experiences.
New Bing Developer Services
The new platform services will deliver three broad categories of capabilities: services to bring entities and the world’s knowledge to your applications, services to enable your applications to deliver more natural and intuitive user experiences, and services which bring an awareness of the physical world into your applications. By integrating these new services into your apps, users will no longer need to leave your app to “go search” – they will have a seamless experience because these capabilities will be accessible directly in your app. Highlights of the services are below; more detail about each service can be found on the Bing Developer Blog.
Bringing the World’s Knowledge to Your Apps
- Understanding the World: We think knowledge is more than just a “graph”. It requires combining the web’s deep sets of information with insights derived from understanding the people, places, things, and actions in the real world. The Bing Entity API allows developers to create applications using this understanding to build scenarios that augment users’ abilities to discover and interact with their world faster and more easily than they can do today.
Natural and Intuitive User Experiences
- The Gift of Sight: Giving machines the ability to see and understand is a long-held science fiction dream. The Bing Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Control enables developers to integrate Microsoft’s robust cloud-based visual recognition capabilities into their applications.
- Write Once, Read Anywhere: The world is shrinking and information is increasingly more global. The Bing Translator Control lets apps detect text and delivers automatic machine translation into a specified language so your users can stay informed wherever they are and whatever language they speak.
- The Power of Voice: Being able to naturally converse with your device to do something is a top user request. The Bing Speech Control for Windows 8.1 allows developers to let users interact with their apps using simply their voice. In addition, the Bing Text-to-Speech API for Windows 8.1 gives devices and applications a voice by allowing them to speak out loud to make user interactions more natural and intuitive.
Awareness of the Physical World
- View from the Top: So much of what we do in our lives depends on where we are and what is around us. The Bing Maps SDK for Windows 8.1 provides mapping, routing, and traffic capabilities for Windows Store applications in Windows 8.1.
- Immersive Geospatial Experiences: Sometimes you need more than directions. The preview of the Bing Maps 3D SDK for Windows 8.1 will deliver photorealistic and smooth mapping experiences that let developers build apps that put the user in the center of the action.
Introducing the Bing Developer Center
To make it easy for developers to access these technologies, we are launching a centralized place to find and use Bing services. In addition to the new controls, you will find tutorials, success stories and a blog dedicated to the Bing Developer Community.
Even when you’ve built a great app, it isn’t always easy for users to find it among the millions of apps available. So in the new Search in Windows, we will be highlighting applications that correspond to the likely intent of users’ searches. In other words, if someone searches for “motocross”, Windows 8.1 not only shows web, image, and news results, but applications that would likely also be interesting to a person searching for the term. We think this will be a great way for people to discover your applications even when they aren’t explicitly in app search mode.
To get a taste of how Bing powers the new Windows 8.1 experience you can explore the different kinds of queries here and then try out a the preview version of Windows 8.1for yourself.
Just the Beginning
This is just the first step towards our vision for Bing as a platform. As we continue to build out our intelligent fabric services you can expect to see additional capabilities that will enable you to create experiences that are more personalized, more contextually aware, and more pro-active in helping to empower your users with knowledge and help them do more To learn more about how you can enhance your apps with the Bing platform, check out the Bing Developer Center.
– Gurdeep Singh Pall, Corporate Vice President, Bing