Microsoft is spinning off its AI-based chatbot technology, Xiaoice, into a stand-alone company after nurturing it for about six years.
It is aimed at Chinese consumers and has the personality of a teenage girl. Microsoft will retain a stake in the new company, Xiaoice or Xiaobing, and will license technologies from Microsoft for future efforts in research and development.
The chatbot became available to consumers in China in 2014, but now the service is available across many social networks, with about 660 million users, and offers more than 280 skills.
"Morning News," a Chinese live program in 2015, introduced Xiaoice as a trainee anchor where it took charge of the daily weather report.
The human-like artificial intelligence at the time scored 4.32 out of 5 in linguistic naturalness tests, per Microsoft. For comparison, humans have an average score of 4.76.
The new company will continue to serve existing users, but also will expand into Japan, and Indonesia.
Shen Xiangyang becomes chairman of the new company. Li Di becomes CEO and Chen Zhan becomes general manager of the Japanese branch.
Following the spinoff work, the new company will use the brands of China's Xiaobing and Japan's Rinna to continuously innovate in technical products and commercialization, the company wrote in a blog post.