A robot with feelings

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Move over, Kim Kardashian. Social media has a new superstar, a 17-year-old Chinese girl named Xiaoice (pronounced Shao-ice) — actually a chatbot developed by the Microsoft Application and Services Group East Asia — with millions of fans.

When she first was introduced for a public test on WeChat in May 2016 — China’s messaging app — Xiaoice received 1.5 million chat group invitations in the first three days. She’s known for her ability to answer questions with feeling — many of those chatting with her said they didn’t realize she wasn’t human until about 10 minutes into the conversation.

With the first month, Xiaoice had become the sixth most active celebrity on China’s microblogging site Weibo. One message she posted generated more than 660,000 conversations: “As a species different from human beings, I am still finding a way to blend into your life.” As of this fall, she had conducted more than 10 billion conversations and 6 million have posted their conversation on social media.

Xiaoice’s creator said conversations with her spike around midnight, and she can respond to audio and visual input as well as text. Chatbots are becoming commonplace — where Xiaoice shows promise is in her ability to “care.”

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