Bots

Watch out Google Duplex, Microsoft also has a chatty AI

©iStock/charles taylor

Not content with being outdone by Google’s impressive (yet creepy) Duplex demo, Microsoft has shown it also has an AI capable of making human-like phone calls.

The company first launched its XiaoIce project back in August 2017. In April, Microsoft said it had achieved full duplexing — the ability to speak and listen at the same time, similar to humans.

Microsoft’s announcement was made before Google’s demonstration earlier this month but, unlike Google, the company had nothing to show at the time.

XiaoIce has now been demonstrated in action during a London event:

The chatbot is only available in China at this time, but it’s become incredibly popular with more than 500 million users.

XiaoIce also features over 230 skills and has been used to perform things such as creating news and hosting radio programs as part of its ‘Content Creation Platform’.

In a blog post, Microsoft VP of AI Harry Shum revealed that more than 600,000 people have spoken on the phone with XiaoIce since it launched in August.

“Most intelligent agents today like Alexa or Siri focus on IQ or task completion, providing basic information like weather or traffic,” wrote Shum. “But we need agents and bots to balance the smarts of IQ with EQ – our emotional intelligence.”

“When we communicate, we use tone of voice, word play, and humour, things that are very difficult for computers to understand. However, Xiaoice has the ability to have human-like verbal conversations, which the industry calls full duplex.”

As many have called for since the Duplex demo, and Google has promised, Microsoft ensures a human participant is aware they’re speaking to an AI.

One thing we’d love to see is a conversation between XiaoIce and Google Duplex to see how well they each hold up. However, let’s keep our hands on the kill switch in case world domination becomes a topic.

What are your thoughts on conversational AIs like XiaoIce and Duplex? Let us know in the comments.

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