Microsoft Steps Up Salesforce Rivalry With New AI, HoloLens Features

(Bloomberg) -- Microsoft Corp. rolled out new features for sales and customer-service software that make use of artificial intelligence and its HoloLens augmented reality goggles, stepping up competition with Salesforce.com Inc.

Remote Assist lets field service workers use the goggles to fix equipment or take other actions guided by a remote expert who can watch the process and draw instructions in the workers’ fields of view, Lorraine Bardeen, general manager, Microsoft Mixed Reality, said in a press briefing on Tuesday. Energy giant Chevron Corp. is among customers using the devices like this. Another use case: Remote training for factory workers on new equipment.  

A second Microsoft service lets companies use HoloLens to map physical spaces and move virtual versions of equipment around to plan before actual moves take place. These will be available as part of the company’s Dynamics 365 cloud-based programs.

Microsoft also unveiled AI-powered products for Dynamics 365, including a virtual tool that lets customer-service agents shift calls to a chatbot that can interact with customers and triage incoming calls, according Alysa Taylor, vice president, Business Applications & Industry. Another offering uses AI to analyze social media sentiment on a company’s products to help marketing staff generate customer loyalty. There’s also one for sales staff that analyzes prospects and recommends leads to prioritize.   

Microsoft’s Dynamics products are growing quickly, but they lag market leader Salesforce.com, which is also using AI for its marketing and customer-relationship management software. 

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