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Microsoft adds info-hunting 'Bot' assistants to Skype for iPhone & iPad

Microsoft on Wednesday launched "Bots" for Skype, allowing people to search for information and content through the app's messaging functions.

At the moment there are only three official Bots connected to Microsoft's Bing search service: Bing Music, Bing News, and Bing Images. Bing Music, for instance, can track down information about a particular song. Future Bots will expand into audio and video calling.

Microsoft also released the Skype Bots Platform to developers, which will allow third parties to devise their own Bots.

To use the Bing Bots, people must first update their Skype client for iPhone, iPad, Windows, or Android. With the iOS apps, users can then search for a term like "Bing" under the Contacts tab, tap to add new contacts, then select the Bots tab to see a list.

The concept of intelligent messaging-based assistants has caught on with major technology firms. Facebook for example is slowly rolling out "M," an assistant that —with the periodic help of human "trainers" —can accomplish a number of tasks, including booking trips and restaurants, or even holding a place in a phone queue.