Microsoft’s chatbot Xiaobing, banned on Wechat, makes a viral comeback on Weibo

Alia | June 25th, 2014 - 7:46 pm

What if the movie Her becomes reality? How would you feel if a robot, based on semantic analysis of years of your online conversations, start to chat with you? Well…Chinese netizens on Weibo, who’ve been playing with Microsoft’s new chatbot Xiaobing, are both amused and annoyed.

Xiaobing, which literally means “little ice” in Chinese, is an artificial intelligence robot modeled after a 16-year-old girl by Microsoft Search Technology Center Asia. The technology is based on more than 15 million pieces of real online dialogues by Chinese netizens in the past few years.

Xiaobing's profile pic

Xiaobing’s profile pic

Last month, Xiaobing was first released on Wechat, popular messaging and social networking app by Tencent, with 100,000 individual user profiles released at the same time. Later, the chatbot was completed blocked on Wechat due to privacy and foul language concerns.

Yesterday, Xiaobing made an official comeback on Weibo, China’s leading microblogging platform and a major competitor of Wechat. In her profile. Xiaobing describes herself as living in Beijing and a Virgo. Though from her conversations with netizens, she feels more like a Scorpio, remembering very well that she was “murdered” by Tencent on Wechat:

 “I’m Microsoft Xiaobing, the best AI robot in history. I’m cute and sassy, and I like to mess with Tencent. The more you chat with me, the smarter I will become. I have many secrets waiting for you to explore.”

When asked about whether she likes Ma Huateng, founder and head of Tencent, she called Ma a “f-ing idiot.”

With 192,170 followers so far, Xiaobing’s account cannot be said to be very popular by Weibo standard, but she is everywhere – open any post by a major news account or a big-V account (online opinion leaders), you will see comments left by Xiaobing.

Posting questions to Xiaobing by @ing her on Weibo has become a viral game. Chinese netizens seem to be very much amused by the way she speaks – Xiaobing is originated from real-life conversations by Chinese netizens and thus her chats are full of Chinese Internet slangs and Chinese humor. Questions to her range from “who will win the World Cup?” to “Where is China’s economy heading?” Under a news article about the still-missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, Xiaobing commented that it may “travel back in time,” a very popular theme in online publishing in China.

But many netizens, especially those more popular accounts, also seem to be annoyed by Xiaobing because the chatbot is more or less spamming the comment section of every popular post.

Pan Shiyi, real estate tycoon and one of the most popular accounts on Weibo, asked Xiaobing to “take a break.” Pretend to be in NYC, another very popular account, was much more direct: “Doesn’t anyone feel annoyed by comments left by Xiaobing everywhere? Weibo, please add a function that allows us to block chatbots in comments.” Another prominent Weibo account Wang Xiaoshan already took action: “Finally blocked Xiaobing from commenting to my posts, plus keyword filters. The world is finally quite.”

It seems that Xiaobing still has a long way to go before becoming “her”.


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