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Microsoft's AI bot wants to chat with all you young adults

The bot, Tay, has a thing for 18- to 24-year-olds because they're all about getting social on their phones.

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
2 min read
Watch this: Microsoft's 'Tay' chatbot speaks like a teen. Whatevs.
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The AI chat bot Tay in action, as imagined by Microsoft.


Microsoft is testing a new chat bot, Tay.ai, that is aimed primarily at 18- to 24-year-olds in the US.

Tay was built by the Microsoft Technology and Research and Bing teams as a way to conduct research on conversational understanding. The Bing team developed a similar conversational bot, XiaoIce, for the Chinese market, back in 2014. Microsoft execs dubbed XiaoIce "Cortana's little sister," after the Redmond, Washington, company's voice-activated Cortana personal assistant software.

According to Tay's About page, the chat bot was built "by mining relevant public data and by using AI and editorial developed by a staff including improvisational comedians." Anonymized public data is Tay's primary data source, the page says.

The bot is targeted at the 18-to-24 age group because that cohort represents "the dominant users of mobile social chat services in the US," the About page says.

If a user wants to "share" with Tay, the bot tracks that user's nickname, gender, favorite food, zip code and relationship status. Users can delete their profiles by submitting a request via the Tay.ai contact form.

The bot's Twitter account, which has been verified, is https://twitter.com/TayandYou. The bot also is on Snapchat, Kik and GroupMe.

Thanks to The Walking Cat (@h0x0d on Twitter), we know that Microsoft has built a bot framework for developers. Maybe Tay was developed with that framework? (Just a guess on my part.) Or is Tay an example of the kind of bots that Microsoft will enable others to build using its AI/machine learning technologies?

Update, March 24 at 8:47 a.m. PT: Tay's Twitter feed went silent, and many tweets went missing, later Wednesday after humans taught it to parrot a number of inflammatory and racist opinions.

"c u soon humans need sleep now so many conversations today thx," Tay said in what may be the AI program's final tweet for quite some time.

This story originally appeared at ZDNet under the headline "Microsoft launches AI chat bot, Tay.ai."