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Microsoft spins Xiaoice Chatbot for Chinese users

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft Corp., gestures during a Bloomberg event on the opening day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday, January 21, 2020.

Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Microsoft will no longer be the parent of a friendly virtual chat bot for Chinese users. The company spins the technology known as Xiaoice or Xiaobing into a new, independent company.

The move strengthens Microsoft̵

7;s focus on the commercial business, not the consumer. In recent years, Microsoft has left several markets that target consumers, including e-books, music streaming, fitness wearables, and smartphones.

Xiaoice became available in 2014, not long after Satya Nadella replaced Steve Ballmer as Microsoft CEO. The technology uses artificial intelligence to stop the end of a virtual chat conversation and generally takes on the role of a teenager.

“Sometimes cute, sometimes cheeky and always streetwise, this virtual teenage girl has her own opinion and behaves like no other bot,” said Microsoft in a 2018 blog post. “She’s not trying to answer every user question. And she is reluctant to follow their orders. Instead, their conversations with their revered users are peppered with ironic remarks, jokes, empathetic advice on life and love, and a few simple words of encouragement. “

Xiaoice has been trained in data that Microsoft retrieves from Internet users through the Bing search engine, and works with several other chat services, including Weibo.

But the Chinese authorities have not always been kind to it. The service has been reportedly excluded from Tencent’s WeChat three times for unspecified reasons related to privacy concerns and political content.

The new company will continue to serve existing users while trying to make the technology available to other companies in China, Japan and Indonesia. This comes from an announcement in Chinese, which was published in the QQ on Sunday. Microsoft is announced to hold a stake in the new company. Xiaoice’s general manager at Microsoft, Di Li, will become CEO of the new company.

The chatbot had 660 million users, as announced on Sunday. People who used it said Microsoft said they felt more positive and received emotional support, according to a 2018 research paper.

Xiaoice received a warmer reception than Tay, an English-language chatbot that Microsoft launched on Twitter in 2016. Malicious users quickly realized that they could customize the interaction with Tay to manipulate him and provide offensive responses.

Microsoft continues to operate the Cortana Virtual Assistant, which is available on mobile devices and in Windows 10.

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