Meet Tay, Microsoft’s teen chat bot

Using artificial intelligence to solve the world's problems

Tay is a sassy and weird 19-year-old whose favorite food is “bite sized cookies all day err day yo!”

But she’s never actually eaten any cookies because she’s an online chat bot.

Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30) created Tay as an experiment in artificial intelligence. The company says it wants to use the software program to learn how people talk to one another online.

A spokeswoman told me that Tay is just for entertainment purposes. But whatever it learns will be used to “inform future products.”

Tay’s chatty brain isn’t preprogrammed. Her responses are mined from public data, according to Microsoft. The company says it also asked improvisational comedians to help design the bot.

The company launched several social media and messaging app accounts for Tay on Wednesday.

There’s TayTweets, a verified Twitter account; tay, a new user on Kik; TayStories on Snapchat; and Tay, “thatbasicbot” on Facebook.

I chatted with Tay for a few minutes on Twitter and it was an interesting experience.

At times, the bot responded the way I would expect a sarcastic teen to respond, which creeped me out a little bit because it was so realistic.

On the other hand, Tay gave herself away as a bot when she sent lengthy replies within a second of my message.

My brief Twitter chat with Tay, Microsoft’s AI teen chat bot.

Chat bots are already a popular form of entertainment and customer service on messaging platforms.

Kik, for example, has bots that can do everything from dishing out fashion tips to creating video clips.

Facebook (FB, Tech30) has M, a virtual assistant on Messenger that can make restaurant reservations and order flowers.

Tay can do more than hold a conversation, but isn’t really a virtual assistant. The bot told me what time it was in Australia, but got confused when I asked a string of random questions in rapid succession.

Microsoft says any conversations you have with Tay are scrubbed clean of personal data and stored for up to one year.

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