A few weeks ago Google turned heads at their annual developer conference when they revealed a new Duplex capability for Google Assistant. The capability was a relatively groundbreaking display of AI since it allows the virtual assistant to make natural human-sounding calls on the user's behalf. Well, it turns out that Microsoft also has a similar technology in China with the Xiaoice chatbot, though it only can call users on the phone for natural conversations (via The Verge.)
The feature for the Xiaoice chatbot was demoed in an AI event in London today by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. He mentioned that the China-only chatbot has 500 million "friends" with more than 16 different channels of interaction via WeChat and other services. Nadella also mentioned that the Xiaoice chatbot can have a full duplex conversation where it can stop a chat on WeChat and call the user to use its own voice so the two can converse at the same time.
According to The Verge, the Xiaoice chatbot has a voice which "sounds really good" and very fluent in Mandarin. You can see this in the video above, where the chatbot talks to the user and interrupts to mention closing the windows due to strong winds.
For now, the Xiaoice chatbot is limited to China only, which is surprising since many users here in the US were impressed by this stuff. Anyway, Microsoft's last AI experiment in the US went a bit rogue, so one can understand why the company is a bit hesitant with the technology in the States. But since Google has stepped up its AI game it might not be too long before we start seeing this tech here in the US too.