Why people in China love Microsoft’s Xiaoice virtual companion, and what it says about artificial …

Microsoft Research Asia Managing Director Dr. Hsiao-Wuen Hon. (GeekWire Photo) Dr. Hsiao-Wuen Hon is speaking quickly inside a Beijing boardroom, excited about the conversation topic. He’s rattling off statistics and talking about Xiaoice, a new personal assistant built by Microsoft that is already being used by 40 million smartphone owners across China and Japan.Hon explains how Xiaoice is similar to digital assistants like those we’re familiar with in the U.S.: Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Facebook’s M, Google Now, and Microsoft’s own Cortana. Inside Microsoft Research Asia in Beijing. But this particular one, which roughly translates to “Little Bing,” is more personal, emotional, friendly, talkative, and at times, more helpful. Rolled out in China late last year and in Japan (it’s called Rinna there) this past August, early consumers seem to enjoy using Xiaoice — even Hon himself is jazzed…


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