Microsoft’s Xiaoice AI bot can make phone calls like Google Duplex
Microsoft has introduced a bot based on artificial intelligence that can have call conversations with humans. This was first reported by The Verge, which also compared the bot to the revamped Google Assistant with the new feature, Google Duplex. Called Xiaoice (pronounced ‘shao-ice’), the social chatbot was unveiled yesterday at an AI event in London, with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella unveiling the feature.
Xiaoice has been tested in China, and boasts of over 500 million ‘friends’, revealed Nadella. In addition, the bot connects to 16 channels for Chinese users, who can interact with it through messaging services, including Tencent Holdings’ WeChat. Commenting on the range of functions the bot can undertake, Nadella was quoted saying, “Xiaoice has her own TV show, it writes poetry, and it does many interesting things. It’s a bit of a celebrity.”
Xiaoice, Chinese for ‘little Bing’, attempts to create real conversations via bots, almost to the point of making users believe they are maintaining contact with a human being. Microsoft said the tests with the social chatbot started over text, but in recent times, Xiaoice has been able to call humans, sometimes even in between text-based conversations. Explaining how this feature, called full-duplex conversation, works, Nadella said, “So now Xiaoice can be conversing with you in WeChat and stop and call you. Then you can just talk to it using voice.” [Note: Full duplex refers to the ability of both parties involved in a conversation to speak simultaneously. This feature led to Google naming the call-based feature in Assistant as Google Duplex]
The event also saw Nadella give a demo of the live call feature, as he claimed that Xiaoice had made over a million calls. Also, The Verge report claimed that the conversation demonstrated showed how Xiaoice was able to predict certain statements from users, and offer quick real-time responses. This advancement of the technology suggests that Microsoft could soon bring Xiaoice to English-speaking regions, around the same time when Google Duplex is likely to be globally tested.