About Azure Bot Service

Note

This topic applies to SDK v3 (stable) release. You can find the documentation for the pre-release verion of the SDK v4 here.

Azure Bot Service provides tools to build, test, deploy, and manage intelligent bots all in one place. Through the modular and extensible framework provided by the SDK, developers can leverage templates to create bots that provide speech, language understanding, question and answer, and more. 

What is a bot?

A bot is an app that users interact with in a conversational way using text, graphics (cards), or speech. It may be a simple question and answer dialog, or a sophisticated bot that allows people to interact with services in an intelligent manner using pattern matching, state tracking and artificial intelligence techniques well-integrated with existing business services. Check out case studies of bots.

Building a bot

You can choose to use your favorite development environment or command line tools to create your bot in C# or Node.js. We provide tools for various stages of bot development that you can use to build your bot to get you started.

Bot Overview

Plan

Before writing code, review the bot design guidelines for best practices and identify the needs for your bot. You can create a simple bot or include more sophisticated capabilities, such as speech, language understanding, QnA, or the ability to extract knowledge from different sources and provide intelligent answers. 

Tip

Install the template you need:

Install tools:

  • Download CLI tools to create and manage bot assests. These tools help you manage bot configuration file, LUIS app, QnA knowledge base, and more from the command-line. You can find more details in the readme.
  • Emulator to test your bot

If needed, use bot components, such as: 

  • LUIS to add language understanding to bots
  • QnA Maker to respond to user's questions in a more natural, conversational way
  • Speech to convert audio to text, understand intent, and convert text back to speech
  • Spelling to correct spelling errors, recognize the difference among names, brand names, and slang
  • Cognitive Services for various other intelligent components

Build your bot

Your bot is a web service that implements a conversational interface and communicates with the Bot Service. You can create this solution in any number of environments and languages and we offer easy getting started tools for Visual Studio or Yeoman or directly within the Azure portal. Look below for some of the tools and services you can use.

Tip

Create a bot using SDK, Azure portal, or use CLI tools.

Add components:

  • Add language understanding model LUIS.
  • Add QnA Maker knowledge base to answer questions users ask.
  • Enhace user experience with cards, speech, or translation.
  • Add logic to your bot using the Bot Builder SDK.

Test your bot

Bots are complex apps, with a lot of different parts working together. Like any other complex app, this can lead to some interesting bugs or cause your bot to behave differently than expected. Before publishing, test your bot.

Publish

When you are ready, publish your bot to Azure or to your own web service or data center. You can set up continuous deployment that allows you to develop your bot locally and is useful if your bot is checked into a source control like GitHub or Visual Studio Team Services. As you check your changes back into your source repository, your changes will automatically be deployed to Azure.

Connect         

Connect your bot to channels such as Facebook, Messenger, Kik, Skype, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Telegram, text/SMS, Twilio, Cortana, and Skype to increase interactions and reach more customers.

Evaluate

Use the data collected in Azure portal to identify opportunities to improve the capabilities and performance of your bot. You can get service-level and instrumentation data like traffic, latency, and integrations. Analytics also provides conversation-level reporting on user, message, and channel data.

About Azure Bot Service

Note

This topic is pre-release documentation for V4 SDK content and is subject to change. You can find V3 SDK (stable) content here.

Azure Bot Service provides tools to build, test, deploy, and manage intelligent bots all in one place. Through the modular and extensible framework provided by the SDK, developers can leverage templates to create bots that provide speech, understand natural language, handle questions and answers, and more. 

What is a bot?

A bot is an app that can communicate through conversation with human users. The software can interact through text, speech, graphics, or menus, and perform tasks related to the conversation. It may be a simple question and answer exchange, or a sophisticated bot that allows people to interact with services in a natural way, while behind the scenes the bot is utilizing intelligent techniques well integrated with existing services.

Bots enable systems to gather information or provide an experience to users that feels less like a computer and more like an interaction. They also shift simple tasks, such as taking a dinner reservation or gathering profile information from the user, on to systems (or integration with other systems) when direct human interaction isn't necessary.

Building a bot

You can choose to use your favorite development environment or command line tools to create your bot in C#, JavaScript, Java, and Python. We provide tools for various stages of bot development that you can use to build your bot to get you started.

Design

Before writing code, review the bot design guidelines for best practices and identify the needs for your bot. You can create a simple bot or include more sophisticated capabilities, such as speech, natural language understanding, or answer questions users ask. 

Build

Your bot is a web service that implements a conversational interface and communicates with the Bot Service. You can create this solution in any number of environments and languages, and we offer easy getting started templates above. You can start your bot development either in the Azure portal or use templates listed below for local development in the language of your choice.

.NET Template JavaScript Template
VSIX template Yeoman template. Use @preview to get v4 template.

Here are additional components you can use to enhance your bot's functionality.

Feature Description Link
Add natural language processing Enable your bot to understand natural language, understand spelling errors, use speech, and recognize the user's intent How to use LUIS
Answer questions Add a knowledge base to answer questions users ask in a more natural, conversational way How to use QnA Maker
Manage multiple models If using more than one model, such as for LUIS and QnA Maker, intelligently determine when to use which one during your bot's conversation Dispatch tool
Add cards and buttons Enhance the user experience with media other than text, such as graphics, menus, and cards How to add cards

Note

The table above is not a comprehensive list. Explore the articles on the left, starting with sending messages, for more bot functionality.

Additionally we provide CLI tools to help you to create, manage, and test bot assests. These tools can manage a bot configuration file, LUIS app, QnA knowledge base, mock a conversation, and more from the command-line. You can find more details in the readme.

Test

Bots are complex apps, with a lot of different parts working together. Like any other complex app, this can lead to some interesting bugs or cause your bot to behave differently than expected. Before publishing, test your bot.

Test bot with the emulator or Test bot in Web Chat.

Publish

When you are ready, publish your bot to Azure or to your own web service or data center.

Connect         

Connect your bot to channels such as Facebook, Messenger, Kik, Skype, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Telegram, text/SMS, Twilio, Cortana, and Skype to increase interactions and reach more customers.

Choose the channels to be added.

Evaluate

Use the data collected in Azure portal to identify opportunities to improve the capabilities and performance of your bot. You can get service-level and instrumentation data like traffic, latency, and integrations. Analytics also provides conversation-level reporting on user, message, and channel data.

Explore how to gather analytics.

Next steps