Now that it appears as though the Google Duplex demo last week was legitimate
(necessary edits were made to protect the businesses involved), it turns out that Microsoft has its own AI bot that makes calls. Today in London, the software giant introduced Xiaoice (pronounced "SHAO-ICE"), which has been undergoing testing in China. In that country, Xiaoice (Chinese for 'Little Bing') is a quite popular, uh, personality with 500 million friends that communicate with it through 16 channels on Chinese messaging services including WeChat.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said at today's event that Xiaoice has a television show, writes poetry, and has become a celebrity in the country. And while most of the interaction is through text messages, Microsoft revealed today that its AI bot also makes phone calls. Unlike Google Duplex, which arranges appointments and reservations for others, Xiaoice will hold a phone conversation with a person.
Nadella says that Xiaoice can have a conversation with you on WeChat and stop to call you. The conversation can then continue over the phone. So far, the AI bot has participated in over one million calls. A demo presented by Microsoft today reveals that like Google Duplex, Xiaoice uses phrases like "Hmm" and "Mmm" to make the bot's end of the conversation sound more human. Check out some of the demo by clicking on the video at the top of this story.
Microsoft is keeping Xiaoice in China right now. Eventually, the AI bot will no doubt be available in the states, although when that might happen no one knows. The last time Microsoft tried out a conversational bot in the U.S. back in 2016, "Tay" was shut down after Twitter users turned it into a racist.