Robots that are able to hold conversations could soon emerge from the pages of Isaac Asimov books and into real life, according to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

In order for companies to provide the best possible customer service, Nadella argued, they need to turn their attention to bots. These Turing test-passing robots could then handle easily automated tasks such as booking hotels and organising deliveries.

Explaining his theory, Nadella said: “Think of bots that you will build as the new websites or new mobile apps. Your customers will interact with your business through these bots.

“This is a world that we are at the very beginning stages of, but we think it’s going to be much more ubiquitous in terms of its deployment.”

Cortana could book your hotel room and arrange flights

Microsoft has already made great strides into the world of intelligent robotics with its voice-based personal assistant, Cortana. As part of Nadella’s vision, Cortana could be told to book in an appointment, then go ahead and book hotel rooms, travel, insurance and anything else that could be needed. All the user would then need to do is confirm or reject the options presented to them.

Microsoft isn’t the only big tech company trialling intelligent bots, though. Facebook hit the headlines recently when it announced plans to add bots to its Messenger platform, to automate much of the customer interaction that’s typically done by a real person.

Despite all of this, however, our progress towards the new robot-led era may be slower than Nadella is suggesting. As Al Plumlier notes: “Just so there’s no misunderstanding, this early wave of ‘bots’ will have very little to do with complex artificial intelligence.

“They’re really just a form of user interface. They’re an app that ‘talks’ to you, as opposed to other apps where you push buttons and select things from lists.”

So whilst we are taking steps towards Asimov’s world, they remain fairly small ones. Artificial intelligence is improving – and becoming more widespread – but it may be a while yet before Nadella’s bots prove to be as revolutionary as some have predicted.