Microsoft Says Talking to XiaoIce is More Like Talking to a Person

Chances are you can probably tell when you're conversing with a chatbot. While the AI-powered conversational interfaces often get the job done--especially in simple customer service scenarios--they are still easy to spot. But Microsoft says it's made big advancements in that arena, creating a chatbot that talks more like a real human--complete with interruptions (sort of...)--and its incorporated this ability into XiaoIce, a social chatbot with over 200 million users in Asia.

According to a post on its blog, "In telecommunications parlance, the breakthrough allows XiaoIce to operate in 'full duplex' – that’s a term that refers to the ability to communicate in both directions simultaneously, like a telephone call. It differs from 'half duplex,' which is more like the walkie-talkie experience in which only one person can talk at a time."

In essence, rather than having to wait until a person is done talking in order to process the sentiment and formulate a response, XiaoIce can "predict what the person she is talking with will say next. That helps her make decisions about both how and when to respond to someone who is chatting with her, a skill set that is very natural to people but not yet common in chatbots." This is meant to help improve lag time between when a person is done talking, and when a chatbot responds. 

Microsoft also says that people won't have to use a "wake word" every time they respond to the chatbot in conversation. In addition, XiaoIce can deal with interruptions. XiaoIce can "pause one thing she’s doing – telling you a story, for example – so she can do something else, like turn on a light." Then she'll remember to go back to telling you the story where she left off.  

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