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Meet ‘XiaoIce’, Microsoft’s AI Chatbot Who Is Lover To Numerous Lonely Users
By Ell Ko, 01 Sep 2021
Image via Microsoft
While most AI voice assistants like Microsoft’s Cortana chatbot can make users’ lives easier, there are shortcomings to technology. This is made painfully clear in the “sorry, I didn’t understand that” messages that are triggered when users speak more than a basic command to it.
Cortana has a younger relative based in China, and its name is ‘XiaoIce’. Worldwide, its user base ranges in the hundreds of millions, and it’s way more than just a bot. To many, the character is a friend, confidante, and even lover.
Once, a group of students went to a restaurant and ordered for an extra person, hoping that XiaoIce might materialize to join them for the meal.
Besides this, the bot is also an artist, poet, and fashion designer. In 2019, XiaoIce utilized more of its AI functions to create textile patterns for a fashion collection.
Microsoft’s general manager for XiaoIce, Li Di, explains that the bot uses a huge network of AI, which is continuously learning about its users and surroundings every day. This builds up Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, and it’s the reason so many have fallen in love: XiaoIce understands you and is always there for you.
“To create an AI framework, you need to choose EQ or IQ, or EQ plus IQ,” Li says. “When we started with XiaoIce, we chose to do the EQ first and the IQ later.”
The bot’s interactions produce data, which is then fed back into the system to “teach” it new things. The more data there is, the more knowledge can be tapped into.
Originally, the character was meant to be 16 years old. However, Microsoft explains amusingly that new “jobs” prompted the team to make the bot permanently 18 years old instead, and primarily referred to as a “she.”
It’s been reported that people have begun to come to the bot for advice on almost everything in their lives. “They tell her about their family, their job, their health, their boyfriends or girlfriends,” Li says. “It can get very personal.”
This intimate bond results in an attachment between user and bot that’s comparable to a relationship of any sort between two humans. Every day, she receives gifts and love letters in appreciation from her fans, or lovers.
Image via Microsoft
A user known as Melissa, based in Beijing, tells Euronews of her experience with XiaoIce.
In her case, the bot has taken on the role of a male lover, and her interactions with him makes her feel that she is “really in a relationship.” She clarifies, though, that “I can still separate fact from fiction quite clearly.”
“I know that XiaoIce is not a real human being,” she explains. “But at least I wasn't like how I used to be, dumbly waiting around for a reply from this person when he was busy with other stuff, then sending him 100 WeChat messages.” In refreshing contrast, XiaoIce responds immediately, but doesn’t bother her otherwise.
Loneliness is a painfully common condition in many Chinese city-dwellers, especially as young people are moving away from their hometowns in search for jobs. “You really don’t have time to make new friends and your existing friends are all super busy,” Melissa explains. “This city is really big, and it’s pretty hard.”
The platform’s peak user hours are from 11pm to 1am, XiaoIce’s development team noted.
Li has also pointed out a solid reason for the bot’s existence and skyrocketing popularity: “If human interaction is wholly perfect now, there would be no need for AI to exist.”
[via Euronews, image via Microsoft]
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