Out with Tay, and in with Zo.
This week, Microsoft has unveiled its newest chatbot that is available on the website Zo.ai and through the Kik Messenger app. The latter is more popular with teens and young adults, but critics notice a departure from previous Microsoft chatbot activities. Zo has been rolled out through a private messaging platform, which lends itself to a more controlled conversation and experience with the chatbot. Users were able to connect with Tay through Twitter, which is not the option this time around.
Zo is the second recent try at building a social chatbot for Microsoft. The first time around was back in March when Tay debuted on Twitter but quickly was shut down after users trained the bot to reply with racist and other wildly inappropriate responses. The tech giant says it has learned from its mistakes and implemented safeguards to avoid talking about sensitive or inappropriate conversation topics and responses.
Critics also noticed that the focus around building emotional intelligence, and not just artificial intelligence, is stronger with building this chatbot.
“Zo is built using the vast social content of the Internet,” Microsoft wrote in a statement. “She learns from human interactions to respond emotionally and intelligently, providing a unique viewpoint, along with manners and emotional expressions. But she also has strong checks and balances in place to protect her from exploitation.”
Microsoft executives say Zo will provide a more one-on-one experience and environment to build a stronger connection with users. They say the future success of AI should be both smart and emotional, as well as personable, with human-like characteristics, such as being funny or sarcastic.
While Zo and especially Tay have made headlines, Microsoft launched Chinese chatbot Xiaoice in 2014 and Japanese chatbot Rinna in 2015. Xiaoice has been engaging regularly with more than 40 million users, and Rinna has been connecting with about 25 million.
To date, Microsoft says that Zo has chatted with 100,000 people through a quiet trial launch earlier in December. While Zo is not reachable via Twitter, Microsoft has said it will soon be bringing the bot to other social channels like Skype and Facebook Messenger.
For more chatbot news, check out PYMNTS Chatbot Tracker.