Microsoft touts breakthrough in making chatbots more conversational Photo credit: Microsoft

Microsoft today announced that it has created what it believes is the "first technological breakthrough" toward making conversations with chatbots more like speaking to another person.

Microsoft says that it has figured out how to make chatbots talk and listen at the same time, allowing them to operate in "full duplex," to use telecommunications jargon. The company says this allows chatbots or assistants to have a flowing conversation with humans, much more akin to how people talk to one another. That stands in contrast to how digital assistants and bots currently work, where only one side can talk at any given time.

The technology is already up and running in Xiaolce, Microsoft's AI chatbot currently operating in China. Using "full duplex voice sense," as Microsoft calls it, Xiaolce can more quickly predict what the person it is speaking to will say. "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," Microsoft says. Another bonus of the breakthrough is that people interacting with chatbots don't have to use a "wake word" every time they speak during a conversation.

The company says it is working to bring the same tech to Zo in the U.S., along with its other social chatbots.

This comes as Microsoft is increasingly focused on its AI and machine learning efforts, gradually spreading intelligent features across its lineup of products and services. Last week, Microsoft announced a major reorganization focused on AI and edge computing.

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