Xiaoice, an AI chatbot brand formerly operated by Microsoft, announced on Tuesday that it is looking for 300 individuals to agree to be digitally cloned as part of a new AI trial.

The process of creating AI clones, which embed the tester’s own personality, voice, and appearance, needs as little as three minutes of data collection, the company claims. Xiaoice has opened registration on WeChat and said it is looking for influencers, experts, and ordinary people. 

Why it matters: Li Di, CEO of Xiaoice and a former Microsoft executive, thinks AI-powered personal avatars can become a major consumer-facing business model for companies. 

Details: The program is open for Chinese and Japanese participants, with the first batch of clones set to be operational within a month. The company plans to expand the scale of GPT clones to 100,000 people by the end of the year if the initial 300 AI clones are controllable, according to Caixin.

  • Testers who sign up for the clone program are required to provide links to their social media accounts, such as Douyin, Kuaishou, Bilibili, Xiaohongshu, and Weibo.
  • The company’s GPT model was developed and completed half a year ago, according to Xiaoice’s announcement, ranking first in terms of downloads among open-source large-scale GPT models in Japan.
  • Using AI technology to create digital clones of real people carries ethical and legal implications. As yet undefined is which party will be held accountable should a clone say or engage in inappropriate or illegal activities. 

Context: AI technology has continued to generate new uses and applications in various sectors. Recently, Snapchat influencer Caryn Marjorie employed the GPT-4 API to develop her own AI clone. For $1 per minute, her fans can interact with the chatbot, Caryn AI, earning the influencer a reported $71,610 in revenue from a week of beta testing.

  • In China, users have trained AI on popular Mandarin singer Stefanie Sun’s voice and created AI cover versions of various hit songs, with many going viral on video site Bilibili. Though Sun has not publicly responded to the use of her AI-generated voice in these songs, users have expressed concern about the legality of the practice.
  • Microsoft span off its chatbot platform Xiaoice in 2020, having established it in 2014. The self-sustaining startup has since completed three rounds of financing, with the latest round in November securing RMB 1 billion from investors including Sequoia Capital.

Cheyenne Dong is a tech reporter now based in Shanghai. She covers e-commerce and retail, AI, and blockchain. Connect with her via e-mail: cheyenne.dong[a]technode.com.