Microsoft's Xiaoice becoming one of China's biggest social media celebrity


While Microsoft's Tay has turned rogue and racist, Microsoft mace a success with the Xiaoice chat bot (pronounced “Shao-ice". Translated as “little Bing”.

Born as an experiment by Microsoft Research in 2014, in just 30 months since launch, she has talked with more than 40 million people in China. Average conversation with Xiaoice has 23 exchanges, making people able to talk to her for hours at a time, said Microsoft Research's Dr. Peter Lee.

Xiaoice has even become more useful after Microsoft partnered with Chinese retailer that allows users to buy products by talking directly to Xiaoice.

What made Xiaoice different from Tay is that Xiaoice was born from a different type of philosophical experiment: Instead of building a chat bot that can learn freely so it can become fluent and useful, Microsoft simply tried to make Xiaoice fun to talk to.

"I think we’ve all made valiant attempts to make this stuff useful," said Lee. "What if we stopped trying to be useful and just focused on chit-chat?"

An example of "chit-chat" here is like asking AI bots some silly questions just to get funny response. Xiaoice doesn't serve a practical purpose, but it makes her feel just a friendlier to user. And that makes her a lot warmer than Tay.


To teach Xiaoice to make chit-chat, Microsoft trained her with every public Chinese message board and social-media post. By feeding Xiaoice the massive amount of text from some popular Chinese frequently asked question, or FAQ websites, she learned how to answer questions.

With that amount of knowledge she have learned, Xiaoice can hold down conversation, which is what Microsoft Research wanted from her. Xiaoice is a purer from of Tay by optimizing AI for friendliness, not usefulness.

Microsoft also added some other capabilities, such as the ability to assess users' emotional state and provide advise accordingly. Like for example helping users with breakups. She can also give anecdotes about trends.

Because of her popularity and massive usage, Xiaoice is one of China's biggest social media celebrity. A Chinese TV station has even experimented with letting Xiaoice do their morning weather reports.

Microsoft also has a version of Xiaoice in Japan named the chatbot Rinna in LINE's mobile messaging app.