Meet Zo, Microsoft's newest AI chatbot

The tech giant introduces another AI chatbot, Zo.ai, but is limiting the topics it's able to address.

Mary Jo Foley
Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network.
Mary Jo Foley
Kik Messenger

Microsoft is giving Kik users early access to its newest AI chatbot called Zo.ai.


Microsoft appears to be keeping a close eye on Zo.ai.

CNET/Screenshot by Carrie Mihalcik

Zo is a successor to Microsoft's ill-fated Tay.ai chatbot, which the company revoked in March after users got it to spew racist, hate-filled comments. MSPowerUser.com blogged about Zo being available in preview on Sunday.

Kik users who've downloaded the Zo preview note that Microsoft's latest chatbot is locked down tightly, presumably to prevent another Tay-like rampage. For example, Zo isn't willing to discuss politics.

I asked Microsoft when it plans to expand access to Zo.ai to Skype or other networks, but haven't heard back.

Tay.ai, created together by the Microsoft Research and Bing teams, was aimed at 18- to 24-year-olds. The Bing team developed an earlier conversational bot, Xiaoice, for the Chinese market, which officials referred to as "Cortana's little sister." Before Microsoft took Tay offline, it was available on Twitter, Snapchat, Kik and GroupMe.

In September, Microsoft officials announced the creation of a combined AI-Research group under Executive Vice President Harry Shum. I'm assuming it's this group creating and fielding new Microsoft chatbots like Zo, and possibly a rumored Bing Assistant bot that may be in the works.

This story originally posted as "Microsoft takes another shot at an AI chatbot with Zo" on ZDNet.