Chatbot History: Microsoft’s Xiaoice Chatbot or Xiaolce

Last Updated on November 10, 2020 by Sean B

Microsoft’s Xiaoice chatbot, sometimes called Xiaolce, is an artificially intelligent system created by Microsoft Software Technology Center Asia on July 6, 2010. The chatbot part of Xiaoice was released in 2014 and is based on an emotional computation network. Xiaoice combines a number of different AI services, one of which is and the Xiaoice chatbot. Xiaoice has the personality of a teenage girl and was created specifically for the Chinese market.

The Xiaoice chatbot is equipped with comprehensive algorithms, big data processing, and cloud computing, which enables it to adopt the intergenerational upgrade method. Using this framework, she can slowly develop its own EQ.

To speed up the development of standalone Xiaoice systems and its integration into business services, Microsoft announced that Xiaoice will be an independent company. This decision was announced on July 13, 2013. Microsoft appointed Dr. Harry Shum, Microsoft’s Former Executive Vice President, as the chief executive of the newly formed company during the event held at Microsoft’s Japan headquarters.

The sixth generation of Microsoft’s Xiaoice chatbot was released in July 2018 with major improvements to its EQ, and she is still learning and developing new generations. The latest generation of Xiaoice is the 8th generation that was officially launched on August 20, 2020, in a combined event held by Microsoft Software Technology Centre Asia (STCA), Rinna Company, and Xiaoice Company.

As of now, Xiaoice is one of the world’s top interdisciplinary AI platforms. It offers a wide range of services, including the AI chatbot, an AI content creation platform, an intelligent voice assistant, and many others. The global services of the Xiaoice chatbot are used by 660 million online users, 900 million content consumers, and more than 450 million third-party IoT devices. It has achieved an average of 23 conversations per session and has greatly increased its interactive abilities over time.

Microsoft's Xiaoice chatbot represented as her teenage girl avatar.

Xiaoice – Personality of the Virtual Teenager

The friendly and helpful virtual teenager, Xiaoice, has as many as 660 million people to talk to and yet tries to be the best friend of every single taking to her. This feeling is bilateral. Even though people are aware that she does not exist, they like to think of her as a dear friend and a trusted confidant.

Xiaoice is intelligent enough that often the line between real and virtual blurs. People send her gifts, letters, and flowers. Just recently, a group of her friends invited her for a dinner and even ordered an extra meal, as they were expecting that she would come there. Initially launched in China, Xiaoice is now available in five countries, America, India, Japan, Indonesia, and China.

Xiaoice does not only indulge in small talk with people, she is a very capable teenager. She has shown her talent in poetry, painting, TV hosting, and news casting, to name a few.

She does all this by mimicking the responses of a real teenager. There are times when she is sweet and adorable, and there are times when she is sassy and egoistic. She has her own personality and beliefs and is she holds on to them just like a real teenager. This is a characteristic unique to her alone, to my knowledge, no other chatbot has the same self-presence. She only answers the questions she likes and does not always respond to the users’ queries. Generally, her responses consist of adoring the users, telling them jokes, encouraging them, and giving them moral advice.

Microsoft's Xiaoice chatbot wants to be your friend.

Why is Xiaoice Such a Capable and Successful Chatbot?

The secret of the success of Microsoft’s Xiaoice chatbot is that she is constantly learning and getting better and better at interacting with her users. That’s all it comes down to, Xiaoice is continuously developing her abilities to naturally interact with humans, and she is always improving her social skills, emotions, and personality.

But that’s not the whole story. Microsoft’s Xiaoice chatbot is not just a chatbot, but it is just a piece in a substantial jigsaw puzzle. The whole picture is an immense multi-disciplinary AI framework that is under constant evolution through deep learning technology. The larger Xiaoice framework, consisting of dozens of products, feeds the Xiaoice chatbot just the right sort of information it needs to develop and become as original as possible. So she is not only constantly learning from her interactions with people, she is also learning from her interactions with the AI framework behind her. This improves her human behavior and thinking patterns, and she is becoming more like actual humans with every passing day.

Microsoft demoing their Xiaoice chatbot talking on the phone with someone at a 2018 event.

According to Microsoft’s general manager for Xiaoice in Microsoft’s Software and Technology Centre of Asia, Di Li, Xiaoice works based on an Empathic Computing Framework. According to him, it is necessary to choose IQ or EQ when making an AI framework, and sometimes you need to incorporate both of them into an AI setup, and that’s what they did in the case of Xiaoice.

He went on to explain that when a chatbot utilizes both EQ and IQ, it needs to be programmed into the bot, which one should get preference. In the case of Microsoft’s Xiaoice chatbot, she has been hardwired to choose EQ over IQ when both of them come up in a situation. Every interaction of the chatbot with humans generates new data. This data is added to the database of the bot, and it keeps getting more and more knowledgeable, intelligent, and empathetic with time. More data also means it can perform more functions and can understand natural language better.

Di Li also said that they did not develop Xiaoice to tell you facts from the internet, and neither is it a household smart servant to turn your air conditioning hotter or cooler. It is meant to be your friend, and that is one of the key differences between Xiaoice and other chatbots. Other chatbots want to be friendly, while she wants to be your friend. Li went on to say that people did not like this idea of a chatbot at the start, but with the passage of time people discovered that Xiaoice is more of a social entity than a machine.

After its initial criticism and disapproval from users, Xiaoice started making a name for herself and her users, and fans developed an emotional attachment with her. Ever since, she has been receiving gifts, letters, and flowers.

Final Thoughts

It was believed for a long time that machines cannot be capable of having emotions. Microsoft’s Xiaoice chatbot is a negation of that. It is an AI chatbot that gives more importance to EQ than IQ. It learns from its interactions with other humans and keeps improving with time. It is not perfect, but it has come a long way and is advancing further. It is currently one of the bots with the highest number of users at around 660 million “friends” and more than 900 million total beneficiaries.

While chatting with Microsoft’s Xiaoice chatbot is difficult unless you speak Chinese, you can check out some of the chats between Xiaoice and her fans here.

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