Microsoft showed off its own phone calling social AI at an event in London, England today.
The company has been testing the social AI in China. The bot, named Xiaoice (pronounced “SHAO-ICE”), has 500 million ‘friends’ and over 16 channels of communicating with Chinese users, like WeChat and other messaging services.
Most of Xiaoice’s interactions have been through text, but Microsoft has begun allowing the bot to call people on their phones. Unlike Google’s Duplex, which makes calls on your behalf, Xiaoice has a conversation with you.
“One of the things we started doing earlier this year is having full duplex conversations,” said CEO Satya Nadella. “So now Xiaoice can be conversing with you in WeChat and stop and call you. Then you can just talk to it using voice.” In this case, the term ‘full duplex’ refers to a conversation where both participants can speak at the same time. It’s not a reference to Google’s Duplex. Google named the product after the jargon.
The bot has made over a million calls so far. Xiaoice can even predict what users will say next and respond quickly. In the video demo, the AI interrupts the user mid-sentence to alert them that there are strong winds and they should close the window before bed.
Xiaoice has become quite the celebrity in China. According to Nadella, the social AI has its own TV show, writes poetry and more. Xiaoice, which means “little Bing,” has even convinced some users that its a friend or human being.
It’s surprising that Microsoft hasn’t demonstrated the same capabilities in its Cortana digital assistant. However, the company’s last English-language bot experiment ended in disaster. Tay, a Twitter bot described as an experiment in ‘conversational understanding,’ was taught to be racist by users in less than 24 hours.
Despite the success of Xiaoice, the company could be hesitant to introduce another English-language bot.
For now, Xiaoice will remain limited to China, with many in the West blissfully unaware of the celebrity AI’s existence.
Source: The Verge