To that end, Microsoft is in the process of building what it's calling "conversational understanding" (CU), which mixes speech, a dictionary, grammatical structures, and machine learning to better figure out what users are saying so that the system can spit out an answer that takes into account all those things.
While there's not yet a Microsoft-created product or a service available that does this, the vision for CU is coming together, Zig Serafin, the general manager of Microsoft's speech group, told CNET.
"Everything that we've been doing up to this point has been knowing what people are saying," Serafin said. "If you use the analogy of a human, it's like having a really good ear. Did I hear what you were saying while you were out on the go while you were on the corner of Market and San Francisco, and did I hear it well enough to be able to give the response you wanted?"