Microsoft didn't get over its chatbot dreams, on the contrary: the company has a new artificial intelligence-powered chatbot named Zo.
AI-powered chatbots are still part of Microsoft's ambitious endeavors, but so far it's been out of luck. The new Microsoft Zo is a second attempt to crack the chatbot scheme after a disastrous attempt with Tay, Microsoft's first AI chatbot that went up in flames earlier this year.
For some context, Microsoft launched Tay back in March, aiming to offer a chatbot that learns from Twitter how to post "sarcastically teen" messages. What the company failed to foresee is that Twitter is a widely diverse pool with all sorts of users and it took less than 24 hours for Tay to turn racist, sexist and what-not, so Microsoft was forced to pull the plug on the chatbot and issue an apology for the hurtful and offensive tweets.
Tay Reloaded: Microsoft Zo
Having learned a hard lesson with Tay, Microsoft is now testing its latest chatbot on Kik. Twitter user Tom Hounsell was the first to spot the new Miccrosoft chatbot and MSPoweruser later revealed that it's called Zo and it's basically the English version of Microsoft's Xiaoice Chinese chatbot. Just like Xiaoice, and like Tay, for that matter, Zo tries to strike up conversations with users.
The new Microsoft Zo chatbot tends to break the ice by asking a question, such as what's your favorite season or some other bland conversation starter. The Verge tried to chat up the bot to see how it works, but it didn't really get many coherent responses. The conversation doesn't quite make sense and it looks like Zo is just posting random answers that may vaguely make sense in its AI-fired brain, but is beyond human comprehension.
At the same time, Zo seems to have the same teen slang that Microsoft tried before, not only with Tay, but also when it invited its "bae interns" to "get lit" at a beer pong party.
While automation can be a great tool, it seems that Microsoft is still having some issues in the AI conversation department, which might explain the choice to test the new Zo chatbot on Kik rather than a larger platform such as Twitter.
Kik has a fairly small number of users compared to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, but it did launch a bot shop earlier this year particularly for enabling developers and users to try AI-powered software on its platform.
It remains to be seen how things will pan out for the new Microsoft Zo chatbot, but it's likely that the company will decide whether or not to opt for a wider release based on the bot's performance on Kik.