Microsoft claims it created the first "full duplex" chatbots. Developed by a team of Chinese researchers, the updated XiaoIce social chatbot is capable of delivering a more natural experience, similar to a person might have when talking on the phone to a friend. XiaoIce not only reponds to information, but predicts how the other person might finish a sentence, and maybe interrupt when appropriate, or to break an awkward silence:
In telecommunications parlance, the breakthrough allows XiaoIce to operate in “full duplex” – that’s a term that refers to the ability to communicate in both directions simultaneously, like a telephone call. It differs from “half duplex,” which is more like the walkie-talkie experience in which only one person can talk at a time.
Zhou said the new update, which Microsoft calls “full duplex voice sense,” also expands XiaoIce’s ability to predict what the person she is talking with will say next. That helps her make decisions about both how and when to respond to someone who is chatting with her, a skill set that is very natural to people but not yet common in chatbots.
“This is the art of conversation that people use in their daily life,” Zhou said.
Taken together, full duplex voice sense reduces the unnatural lag time that can sometimes make interactions with chatbots feel awkward or forced.
“This really speeds up her responses to be much more natural,” said Ying Wang, a Microsoft director who oversees Zo.