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Microsoft Also Has an AI Bot That Makes Phone Calls to Humans

Xiaoice interacts in text conversations but now the company has started allowing the chat bot to call people on their phones

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Microsoft's beta Android launcher has digital health feature. Pixabay

While Google Duplex, which lets AI mimic a human voice to make appointments and book tables through phone calls, has mesmerised people with its capabilities and attracted flak on ethical grounds at the same time, Microsoft has showcased a similar technology it has been testing in China.

At an AI event in London on Tuesday, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella revealed that the company’s Xiaoice social chat bot has 500 million “friends” and more than 16 channels for Chinese users to interact with it through WeChat and other popular messaging services.

“Microsoft has turned Xiaoice, which is Chinese for ‘little Bing’, into a friendly bot that has convinced some of its users that the bot is a friend or a human being. Xiaoice has her own TV show, it writes poetry and it does many interesting things,” The Verge quoted Nadella as saying.

Xiaoice interacts in text conversations but now the company has started allowing the chat bot to call people on their phones.

The bot does not work exactly like Google Duplex, which uses the Assistant to make calls on a user’s behalf but it holds a phone conversation with the user.

Microsoft
Microsoft. (Wikimedia commons)

“One of the things we started doing earlier this year is having full duplex conversations. So now Xiaoice can be conversing with you in WeChat and stop and call you. Then you can just talk to it using voice,” Nadella was quoted as saying.

Humans will be humans and the latest victim of humankind was Microsoft.

Two years ago, Microsoft launched an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered bot on Twitter, named Tay, for a playful chat with people, only to silence it within 24 hours as users started sharing racist and offensive comments with the bot.

Also Read: Microsoft Introduces ‘Surface Hub 2’ for Modern Workplaces

Launched as an experiment in “conversational understanding” and to engage people through “casual and playful conversation”, Tay was soon bombarded with racial comments and the innocent bot repeated those comments back with her commentary to users.

Some of the tweets had Tay referring to Hitler, denying the Holocaust, and supporting Donald Trump’s immigration plans, among others.

Later, a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch that the company is taking Tay off Twitter as people were posting abusive comments to her. (IANS)

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India can Lead in Setting Standards for Ethical use of AI: Microsoft Executive

Microsoft on Friday announced a partnership with the Indian School of Business (ISB) to equip business leaders with tools and strategies to make their organisations AI-driven

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FILE - A sign for Microsoft is seen on a building in Cambridge, Massachusetts, March 18, 2017. VOA

By Gokul Bhagabati

With the government focusing on the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) as people are increasingly adopting digital technologies, India can lead in setting standards for ethical use of AI, a top Microsoft executive said on Friday.

“The real application of AI needs to be to empower human ingenuity and to accelerate innovation for all kinds of work and thinking,” Anant Maheshwari, President, Microsoft India, told IANS.

In an earlier interview with IANS on the eve of 73rd Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the government is trying to leverage technology like AI and ML to improve school education.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her maiden Budget speech in July announced that the government will lay focus on new-age skills like AI, Internet of Things, Big Data, 3D Printing, Virtual Reality and Robotics.

“About 91 per cent of organisations today plan to leverage AI within the next three years to drive their businesses and the biggest issue they point out for not using it right now is lack of skills,” Maheshwari said.

Artificial Intelligence Bot
Artificial Intelligence Bot. Pixabay

“India is among the top three geographies globally in terms of the supply of skills for AI and that bodes very well for India to lead and contribute significantly in the world of AI,” Maheshwari added.

“We can very much create use cases and the standards for ethical use of AI. I am quite optimistic on the role India will play in the emergence of AI and the principles of AI,” he noted.

Also Read: Smartphones Do Not Damage Mental Health Of Adolescents

Microsoft on Friday announced a partnership with the Indian School of Business (ISB) to equip business leaders with tools and strategies to make their organisations AI-driven.

“The initiative we are launching today between ISB and Microsoft really addresses not only the issue of creating right awareness around the skill set needed to drive the AI strategies, but also provide the tool sets to create the AI strategies, to create the discussion around what culture is needed inside an organisation to drive AI and also have the awareness of the ethics and principles around it,” Maheshwari emphasised. (IANS)