Microsoft is back with another AI chatbot.
The company is testing “Zo,” as spotted by MSPowerUser, on the Kik messaging platform. The arrival of “Zo” comes eight months after Microsoft released a millennial-minded chatbot called “Tay” but removed it within 24 hours after the bot expressed racist and inappropriate leanings to some users.
“Tay” was trained to speak like a millennial instead of a personal assistant and could learn to talk just like the people it was speaking with. The bot lived inside Kik, GroupMe and Twitter. Microsoft’s Technology and Research group teamed up with Bing to experiment and research conversational understanding in machines. The team used public data, along with input from improv comedians and AI experts alike.
But “Tay” only lasted a day or so in public.
“The AI chatbot Tay is a machine learning project, designed for human engagement,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement this past March. “It is as much a social and cultural experiment, as it is technical. Unfortunately, within the first 24 hours of coming online, we became aware of a coordinated effort by some users to abuse Tay’s commenting skills to have Tay respond in inappropriate ways. As a result, we have taken Tay offline and are making adjustments.”
Microsoft has a history of creating lovable bots. During GeekWire’s trip to China last year, we learned about Xiaoice, an emotional, friendly, talkative bot that Microsoft created for Chinese users — 25 percent of users have told the bot they love it.
Xiaoice, which roughly translates to “Little Bing,” is perhaps best described as a virtual friend — one that can have conversations relevant to you, make you smile, suggest new products to purchase, identify photos, and so much more. It’s not only intelligent, but also rather thoughtful — for a robot, at least — thanks to advanced sentiment analysis technology.
This past September, Microsoft revealed plans for a new 5,000-person engineering and research team to focus on its artificial intelligence products. Microsoft is among a throng of tech companies like Google, Amazon, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and others that are utilizing artificial intelligence and machine learning for chatbot-like products and services.