Artificial Intelligence

Microsoft XiaoIce gives Google Duplex serious competition as an AI office assistant

The Chinese social chatbot boasts 500 million+ users and more than 230 skills.

Google recently took the tech world by storm, debuting a new technology called Duplex that allowed Google Assistant to call and make appointments on behalf of a user. However, Microsoft may be able to give the search giant a run for its money with its social chatbot XiaoIce.

At a Tuesday talk on artificial Intelligence (AI), Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella showed off XiaoIce's ability to make a human-sounding phone call as well. As noted by the Verge, it doesn't work the same way as Google's Duplex—making full calls on a user's behalf—rather, it maintains a back and forth conversation.

In a Monday blog post, Microsoft's executive vice president of AI and research, Harry Shum, wrote that more than 600,000 people have spoken on the phone with XiaoIce. This has all happened since last August, when XiaoIce launched, and Microsoft informed the users that it wasn't a real person.

SEE: IT leader's guide to the future of artificial intelligence (Tech Pro Research)

While Microsoft's chatbot is only in China, it does have some more than 500 million users and more than 230 skills, as noted by our sister site ZDNet. These skills are focused on high emotional intelligence.

XiaoIce has been used to read audiobooks, create financial news, and host radio programs. This happens on its Content Creation Platform, and Microsoft refers to the solutions as "XiaoIce for business," ZDNet reported.

There are other chatbots from Microsoft similar to XiaoIce, including Ruuh in India, Rinna in Japan and Indonesia, and Zo.ai in the US. Zo.ai is the follow-up to Tay.ai, the bot that was turned into a sexist, racist troll by Twitter users.

While XiaoIce is a standalone chatbot, it likely won't replace Cortana anytime soon, ZDNet noted.

Google Duplex and Microsoft XiaoIce highlight just how far enterprise AI has come. In both instances, they could be mistaken for a human assistant and showcase how AI, not hardware or software, is the new defining feature of Silicon Valley's tech giants.

The demonstrations from both Google and Microsoft also illustrate how AI could be used in a business context. Technologies like Duplex or XiaoIce could be used to handle business meeting scheduling, set up sales calls, and more.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:
  • Microsoft XiaoIce can have regular back-and-forth conversations with human users, much like Google's Duplex.
  • Duplex and XiaoIce are evidence of the growing importance of AI in enterprise technology, and how it could be used to make the office more productive.

Also see

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Image: Stephen Shankland/CNET

About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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