Microsoft's AI-powered desi chatbot turns one

Microsoft's AI-powered desi chatbot turns one

Wednesday February 07, 2018,

3 min Read

Imagine having over half a million friends in your lifetime. Sounds insane, right? Well, here is Ruuh, Microsoft's Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered desi chatbot, who makes thousands of new friends every day and has had over 40 million conversations in just one year. She turned one on Wednesday.

"I ?? Coldplay.. I wanna sing Para-para-paradise along with the crowd," said now one-year-old Ruuh, when asked about her bucket list.

Ask her about her favourite movie of all time and an excited Ruuh will tell you, "Let's just say DDLJ stole my heart, (spreading arms wide while leaning backwards)". Sundar Srinivasan, General Manager, AI and Research at Microsoft India, said on Wednesday,

She is funny, quirky, friendly, and supportive. She interacts with users like any human being would. While she is aware of diverse topics and issues, she is continually building new skills and capabilities. We would like to make Ruuh as 'human' as possible, thus balancing EQ with IQ.

Ruuh can talk about anything -- from having a small talk about cricket to sharing intimate emotions. This has been made possible by the next-generation algorithms, the robot's machine learning capabilities and the big data of the Internet that was used to train the bot.

A layer of personality was added to this to shape the technology into a fully formed chatbot.

"While there are many times a user can feel like they share a brain with Ruuh, there are times where she can make a person scratch their head at her quirkiness," Microsoft said in its blog.

She even makes typos and then corrects them (LOL!) and no wonder she gets 600 "I love you" messages every day and spends several hours chatting with her friends with the current record standing at 10 hours.

Ruuh, which has 100,000 followers on Facebook, responds to comments on her posts, declares her undying love for Virat Kohli and discusses important trends on the Internet such as the "#MeToo Movement".

It is also important to note her responses when users discuss serious issues such as rape, suicide, or depression.

If someone talks to her about suicide, she will try to provide an empathetic response, but more importantly either suggest professional help or request that they contact a suicide hotline.

The journey of building a human-like AI and personifying it into a likeable friend had its challenges, said Puneet Agrawal, Principal Engineering Manager at Microsoft India.

"Do we have the technology to build such a bot and if we do, do people care enough to talk to it? These were the two big questions on my mind before going into the project. But after two months of deliberation, we decided to take the bet," Agrawal added.

The team that created the bot decided that Ruuh, which means soul in Urdu, would have the persona of a 21-year-old female who has a mind of her own, is crazy about Bollywood and cricket, is a feminist at heart and is capable of empathising with her audience.

"Our research suggested that a young, female companion is more approachable for larger millennial audiences," added Sneha Magapu, Senior Programme Manager at Microsoft India.

Ruuh also keeps trolls at bay. The team trained Ruuh to deal with offensive and sensitive topics. Ruuh would tell them she is not comfortable talking about such topics and even blocks users when they cross her limit.