Microsoft is unveiling a major update to its Bing chatbot today, adding picture and video responses, restaurant reservations, chat history, and some great Microsoft Edge integration. These new features coincide with Microsoft making Bing Chat available to anyone, moving from private to public preview.
Perhaps the biggest addition is the new Actions feature in Bing Chat and Edge. Microsoft’s Bing AI can now be used to complete tasks without going back and forth between sites. If a search result suggests a restaurant, it will help you find a reservation time that works for you and book it all in the chat interface.
It also works through Edge, so if you’re looking for movies, you can ask Bing AI to play it for you, and it’ll automatically pick the right service and open the site to start playing the movie. Microsoft didn’t list all the partners it’s working on for Bing and Edge Actions, but the company has demonstrated OpenTable for restaurant reservations and Apple TV for movie searches, so it’s safe to say they’ll be supported when they roll out in a few weeks.
Next are image and video search results in Bing Chat. “We’re introducing better, more visual responses, including charts and graphs and updated formatting of responses,” says Yusuf Mehdi, head of consumer marketing at Microsoft. You can quickly search in Ping Chat and ask for photos or videos of objects, animals, places and more. Microsoft is expanding its Bing Image Creator to more than 100 languages, so you can easily use Bing Chat to create images.
Microsoft also adds the most requested feature to Bing Chat: History. This new chat history will allow you to capture chatbot conversations across devices and use Bing Chat as a research tool. Microsoft plans to add features to Bing Chat and sharing, so you can share the contents of a conversation on Twitter or bring it into a Word document.
The chat history on Microsoft Edge is quite interesting. When you open a link from a Bing Chat reply in Edge, it automatically moves that chat to the sidebar, so you can continue asking questions as you browse the site. Microsoft is also experimenting with bringing context to new conversations from previous chat history to personalize these chat sessions.
The Edge Compose feature in the sidebar gets better tone options for creating text, and Edge Mobile will soon support page context, so you can ask questions about the page you’re on in Ping Chat, just like the sidebar in the desktop version.
For a round of feature enhancements, Microsoft is opening up Bing Chat to third parties with plug-in support. As with these new features, it’s unclear when plugin support will be available, but Microsoft says it’s working with OpenTable for its Bing Actions booking feature, Wolfram Alpha for visualizations, and OpenAI to let developers plug into Bing Chat.
“We believe this is a game-changer in reinventing search and improving opportunities for developers in search,” says Mehdi. “We look forward to sharing more details at Microsoft Build later this month.”