The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post.
Paroma Sen, EMBA 2015-18, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur
I am sure to most of us, the 90s kids, Small Wonder or Vicki is a name that rings a bell. The sci-fi sitcom where the family of a robotics engineer secretly creates a robot in the form of a 10-year-old girl then tries to pass it off as their adopted daughter. Back then did we ever think that this sci-fi could turn into a reality someday.
Microsoft has created a Chinese-language chat-bot that has captured the attention and affection of millions of people who message it regularly. Her name is named Xiaoice (pronounced Shao-ice), and she is increasingly becoming a ‘virtual girlfriend’ for thousands of people.
The Telegraph dated August 17 reports Xiaoice is a chat-bot with a difference.
Xiaoice has a memory – The program remembers details from previous conversations with users, such as a breakup with a girlfriend or boyfriend, and asks in later conversations how the user is feeling.
She can chime into a conversation with context-specific facts about things like celebrities, sports, or finance but she also has empathy and a sense of humor.
Using sentiment analysis, she can adapt her phrasing and responses based on positive or negative cues from her human counterparts.
She can also tell jokes, recite poetry, share ghost stories, relay song lyrics and reveal winning lottery numbers and much more. She also loves using emojis.
All these features makes her a sophisticated conversationalist with a distinct personality.
People chat with Xiaoice when they have a broken heart, have lost a job, or have been feeling depressed. Because Xiaoice is not real, many people feel like they can chat with her for hours on end. She has great listening skills, a sense of humor, and she gives love back, users claim.
It was just last year that Microsoft introduced Xiaoice and she has already become a huge sensation in China and currently has over 850,000 followers on the service. That day is not far away when Xiaoice will have a physical entity to help its owner while maintaining a presence online.
If we think of it, it was mankind’s need to communicate with each other that led to the remarkable advancement of telecom services and existence of social networking sites. Yet gradually we are finding and adapting to only those technological inventions which are limiting our human interactions as much as possible.
So question here is, have we reached to a point where we think that this human interaction which has been the base of our civilizations over centuries is no longer essential ? Is this because we are getting too conscious about revealing our true self and emotions to the people around us and hence we want an artificial intelligence to substitute them?