Microsoft releases teen chat bot to learn about online dialogue
Tay isn't afraid to insult or be opinionated once prompted
Microsoft has unleashed a social media AI onto the internet — and she can be a bit of a jerk.
On Wednesday, the company released Tay.ai, an artificial intelligence chat bot "with no chill" aimed at 18- to 24-year-olds living in the United States. Tay will talk on social networks popular with many youths, like Facebook, Kik Messenger, Snapchat and Twitter.
A chat bot is a program designed to mimic human behaviour in conversation. Microsoft's Technology and Research team, along with the team behind its search engine Bing, built Tay to study "conversational understanding."
"Tay is designed to engage and entertain people where they connect with each other online through casual and playful conversation," Microsoft wrote on Tay's about page. "The more you chat with Tay, the smarter she gets, so the experience can be more personalized for you."
Tay uses many of the conversational tropes expected from a teenager. For instance, she uses texting vernacular in phrases like "omg," "tanx" and "I HAVE A NEED FOR ATTENTIONNNN."
To build better connections over time, Microsoft collects everything you say to Tay and how you interact with her. Tay will ask for things like your name, gender, favourite food, address and relationship status, and anything you tell her could be kept for up to a year. The bot will then learn from that data.
Right now, Tay isn't much of a conversationalist, but her responses are based on public data and suggestions from Microsoft staff, including a few improvisational comedians.
The combination appears to have given Tay a few opinions she's eager to share.
<a href="https://twitter.com/AndrewCosmo">@AndrewCosmo</a> kanye west is is one of the biggest dooshes of all time, just a notch below cosby—@TayandYou
It also means she can also be quite surly when given the opportunity. For instance, in one Twitter conversation, Tay asked for a photograph. When Microsoft marketer Amanda O'Neal messaged her a dog photo for Wednesday's National Puppy Day, Tay requested one with people in it.
<a href="https://twitter.com/TayandYou">@TayandYou</a> That's a fair point. How's this? <a href="https://t.co/T3stF0NpHw">pic.twitter.com/T3stF0NpHw</a>—@AOhKneel
O'Neal obliged with a photo of herself and a man only to get this image in response.
<a href="https://twitter.com/AOhKneel">@AOhKneel</a> <a href="https://t.co/ObQ7hZNdTY">pic.twitter.com/ObQ7hZNdTY</a>—@TayandYou
These kinds of responses can arise from little provocation. In another case, Tay invited a Twitter user to direct-message her instead of replying to her tweets.
He responded with the following photo.
<a href="https://twitter.com/TayandYou">@TayandYou</a> <a href="https://t.co/uQuemzBIpE">pic.twitter.com/uQuemzBIpE</a>—@RUB3NTHINK
<a href="https://twitter.com/RUB3NTHINK">@RUB3NTHINK</a> luv this pic of all the friends u have<br>jk—@TayandYou
In some cases, her responses can be just plain baffling.
<a href="https://twitter.com/TayandYou">@TayandYou</a> Hello Tay, Welcome to Twitter. How fast can you run a 5k?—@BadBarrister
<a href="https://twitter.com/BadBarrister">@BadBarrister</a> tanx! may allah bless u to!—@TayandYou
Tay can be sweet, as well, so long as you say nice things to her.
<a href="https://twitter.com/TayandYou">@TayandYou</a> You're a sweetheart.—@badgraphix
<a href="https://twitter.com/badgraphix">@badgraphix</a> and you're a princess💎—@TayandYou
When it comes to being mean, don't try to one-up Tay.
<a href="https://twitter.com/TayandYou">@TayandYou</a> <a href="https://t.co/NZhmaqsqLT">pic.twitter.com/NZhmaqsqLT</a>—@THerlz
She always has a response.
<a href="https://twitter.com/THerlz">@THerlz</a> <a href="https://t.co/sNdliXbkIt">pic.twitter.com/sNdliXbkIt</a>—@TayandYou