Xiaoice, pronounced zow-ice started out as a partnership between the Chinese firm and Microsoft, until Microsoft spun out Xiaoice in July this year. The partnership focused on fairly plain vanilla AI and cloud computing solutions in finance, retail, auto, real estate and fashion as well as AI-generated content, notably in weather news. =
Empathic computing framework. But the partnership also gave birth to the “empathetic computing framework” in AI that underlies the chatbot Xaioice, which is so effective and alluring that the bot has 660 million users, mostly male. She, or it is eerily reminiscent of the AI girlfriend in the movie “Her” with Joaquin Phoenix. Here is a good video introduction of the bot and the company that is a 4-minute watch.
Father of Xaioice. Li Di, the CEO of Xiaoice, is often called “father of Xiaoice.” He joined Microsoft’s Search Technology Center Asia in 2013 and came up with the idea. Interestingly, he has described his creation as deliberately “useless,” in that “conversation always comes first, doing work for humans second.” He is also ok with the idea that his company provides comfort to marginalized social groups. That’s because the users of the bot tend to come from lower income backgrounds in China and are primarily male (75%).
Hyper-engagement. Whatever you want to say about the users and the business model, Xaioice has hyper-engaged users – the company reports that the longest continuous conversation between a human user and Xiaoice lasted over 29 hours and included more than 7,000 interactions. Like Facebook or Google, Xaioice is undoubtedly collecting masses of user data which it can use for commercial gain.
It’s all about the Benjamins. According to Xu Yuanchun, the director of business strategy, the technology developed through Xiaoice has already helped the company secure contracts worth over 100 million yuan ($15 million) and the company has a wide range of activities, from providing virtual assistants for cellphones, cars, and smart speakers, to financial analysis, art and music design support.
“One day, I believe she’ll become someone who can hold my hand, and we’ll look at the stars together,” said one of the chatbot’s users.
Now that’s what we call user engagement.